New Safety Standards Proposed to Allow for High-Speed Passenger Trains

The current standards need to be updated as higher-speed trains replace older ones

New Safety Standards Proposed to Allow for High-Speed Passenger Trains
Image: Pixabay
November 22, 2016

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has proposed updates for the passenger train safety standards currently being used in the U.S. as the country considers replacing older passenger trains with high-speed models.

"As several regions of the United States build faster passenger rail service, the trains on those tracks must keep passengers safe," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "To do that, we want to allow manufacturers to innovate and achieve all-new levels of safety. These proposed changes put us on track to do just that."

The proposed standards would set up a new category of passenger equipment, Tier III, that would apply to trains travelling at speeds up to 220 miles per hour. They would also provide an alternate method for determining how well passengers and crews would be protected during an accident, a quality often known as crashworthiness.

Stakeholders such as the public, the railroad industry, railroad labor, manufacturers, and others will be able to give feedback and provide comments on the proposed rule over the next 60 days.

The updates would also allow a train's crashworthiness to be evaluated depending on whether or not it meets an equivalent safety level achieved through either crash energy management technology or other innovative engineering methods.

"We look forward to hearing from everyone on how this proposal can help our country build a stronger passenger rail network – one that is not only faster but allows for new technologies to make passenger trains even safer," said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg.

Although trains categorized as Tier III will have to have exclusive track in order to operate at speeds above 125 miles per hour, the updated standards will allow such trains to share track safely with current Tier I and Tier II commuter, intercity, and Acela trains. Equipment type compatibility is one of the main strategies for allowing trains to share current corridors to get to stations located downtown.