The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced last week its Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) believes it is time for the FRA to work to “implement new crashworthiness performance standards for next generation high-speed passenger rail equipment that will operate in the United States.” This development comes as plans are under way to bring high speed rail in the Northeast Corridor as well as California, which is where these standards would be initially employed once finalized.
These standards are currently being developed by the FRA and will be published later this year as a baseline for “safety requirements for next generation rail equipment that would travel up to speeds of 220 mph on high-speed rail tracks, while providing the flexibility to operate with existing freight and passenger systems up to speeds of 125 mph.” This is consistent with the types of high speed rail being built out domestically at a very, very slow pace after an initial vision by President Obama over two years ago of pumping $53 billion over the next six years on a national high speed rail network.
They are designed, according to the FRA, to provide an alternative approach
to existing railcar crashworthiness requirements that have influenced the type of passenger equipment built and used in the U.S. market for nearly a century. The proposed standards would establish performance-based requirements for an interoperable rail network, permitting the use of “service proven” designs and advanced technologies, while ensuring a consistent, systematic approach to safety.
The RSAC is FRA’s technical and policy stakeholder body that includes representatives from various rail industry perspectives, including major international rail builders. That the committee includes those involved in the rail industry and not just government officials and high speed rail advocates may signal a growing interest in bringing this form of mass transit to at least select areas of the country, though ideally a national network like this one would be more desirable.
“Today’s vote is another important step in advancing high-speed and intercity passenger rail in America,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement. “This vote brings us closer to new jobs and manufacturing opportunities to make high-speed rail equipment for use here at home and abroad.”