Posts Tagged ‘safety plans’

NTSB Wants FRA to Implement Safety Rule Now

June 27, 2019

The National Transportation Safety Board is demanding that the Federal Railroad Administration implement immediately a passenger-rail operations safety program.

The statement, which is a recommendation and not a legally-binding mandate, followed the NTSB’s release of a report into the derailment of an Amtrak Cascades Service train in December 2017 that killed three and injured 65 others.

The safety agency concluded that a failure to provide effective mitigation of a hazardous curve combined with inadequate training of the locomotive engineer led to the derailment.
The NTSB report found the derailment occurred when the southbound train entered a 30-mph curve traveling at 78 mph.

In its report, the NTSB made 26 new safety recommendations and reiterated three existing safety recommendations, one of which is enactment of a federal regulation known as the “System Safety Program.”

Although the FRA published a rule mirroring the NTSB recommendation, implementation of the rule has been delayed six times, most recently to Sept. 4, 2019.

States Balk at FRA Passenger Safety Plan Rule

December 27, 2017

Transportation officials in several states are resisting a Federal Railroad Administration rule that requires passenger carriers to develop a System Safety Plan.

The states are not opposed to safety plans per se, but object to who is responsible for the plans, particularly in cases in which a state owns the rails over which a carrier such as Amtrak operates.

The FRA rule applies to “states, state agencies and instrumentalities, and political subdivisions of states that own [but do not necessarily operate]” railroads, railroad equipment, or provide financial support for passenger trains.

An analysis published on the website of Trains magazine observed that states are arguing that safety is the purview of the railroad tenant, not the landlord, and forcing a state to create a safety plan imposes a financial burden.

Some states have contended that they lack the experience and expertise to create safety plans. The Vermont Agency of Transportation, which owns a portion of the route used by Amtrak’s Downeaster said that its officials aren’t even allowed on the right-of-way without the railroad’s permission.

Also protesting to the FRA have been the Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin joint power authorities in California, Indiana Department of Transportation, Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, and the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

The FRA issued the rule in August 2016, saying that an “intercity passenger railroad” must create a safety plan that “continually and systematically evaluates railroad safety hazards on its system and manages the resulting risks to reduce the number and rates of railroad accidents, incidents, injuries, and fatalities.”

The deadline for creation of these safety plans has been delayed five times in the past 16 months. It is now set to take effect in December 2018.

Some states have also said the rule raises a constitutional question of how far the federal government can go to regulate state behavior.

“In opening the door to application of its [safety plan] rule … the FRA plainly has overreached its grant of enabling authority from Congress,” the Vermont petition states. “Moreover, by exposing such state entities with the untoward consequences of ‘railroad carrier’ status, the FRA will have a chilling effect on activities encouraged by Congress …” including state acquisition of lines threatened by abandonment.

In the meantime, Amtrak said it continues to create its own safety plan. “We are taking action independent of the stay of the rule. We are building a Safety Management System which includes the development of a System Safety Program,” an Amtrak spokeswoman said.