Wednesday, December 11, 2013

FRA issues Safety Advisory on speed restriction compliance

Written by  William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
The Federal Railroad Administration on Dec. 11, 2013 issued an industry-wide Safety Advisory (2013-08) “to help ensure railroads adhere to federal regulations regarding maximum authorized train speed limits.”

The advisory contains four recommendations “to ensure railroads comply with speed restrictions through appropriate operating policies, procedures, and effective implementation,” FRA said, adding that it “expects railroads to take action immediately”:

• Review the circumstances of the Dec. 1, 2013, Metro-North Spuyten Duyvil derailment with operating employees.

• Provide instruction to employees during training classes and safety briefings on the importance of compliance with maximum authorized train speed limits and other speed restrictions.

• Evaluate results of operational data regarding speed testing.

• Reinforce the importance of communication between train crewmembers located in the controlling locomotive, particularly during safety-critical periods when multiple tasks are occurring and during extended periods of inactivity.

On Dec. 6, FRA issued Emergency Order 29 (EO 29) to Metro-North directing it to take “specific, immediate steps to ensure its train crews do not exceed speed limits. EO 29 requires Metro-North to modify its existing signal system to ensure that operators obey speed limits, and to provide two qualified railroad employees to operate trains where major speed restrictions are in place until its signal system is modified.”

FRA also issued a letter calling on Metro-North to “launch a safety stand-down with all employees and to fully implement the confidential close-call reporting system, which has helped improve rail safety on other lines. Metro-North has written the FRA to outline its plans to comply with the directives, and the FRA will continue working directly with Metro-North staff as they implement the provisions.”

FRA said it had already increased its oversight and enforcement of Metro-North’s rail lines following a May 2013 crash, including additional inspections of its lines and audits of Metro-North’s operations and compliance with federal regulations. FRA added it is also planning to conduct an extensive investigation of the carrier’s safety compliance with all regulated railroad safety disciplines.”