FRA chief emphasizes cooperation, foresight in address to trade group

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Federal Railroad Administration head Ron Batory speaks at the APTA conference.
Malcolm Kenton
DENVER, Colo. — “Throughout my entire career, I gave priority to passenger trains, whether in a dispatching office or elsewhere [on the railroad],” Federal Railroad Administrator Ron Batory told rail transit industry stakeholders on Tuesday.

“People think there’s a void between passenger and freight, and I think that’s because of an absence of communication.” Resorting to litigation makes communication more challenging, but “a path of commonality can be reached” where “both sides feel a little pain,” Batory insisted.

These remarks were in response to a question about shared right of way solutions from the president of a private passenger train operators’ trade group. The FRA head agreed with another audience member that his agency has not done enough to convince the public that rail is already one of the safest travel and shipping modes available.

Most of Batory’s address at the American Public Transportation Association’s Rail Conference focused on positive train control, the hot-button issue in railroading this year. He said the agency is adding staff and contractors in anticipation of the flood of paperwork that FRA will have to review in advance of the statutory deadline of Dec. 31, and that a “perpetual inventory of administrative flow” is now in place so that the FRA knows exactly what is in the pipeline for its review.

Batory lamented that, by the original statutory PTC implementation deadline of Dec. 31, 2015, only 45% of all railroads had even engaged a supplier towards the development of a PTC platform. He said that railroads granted an “alternate schedule” to extend their full implementation deadline to the end of 2020 will then have all of 2021 to iron out any wrinkles before the agency begins assessing fines for operations that are required to be protected by PTC but are not.

“Think about what your phone looked like 15 years ago [compared to today],” Batory cautioned, saying that PTC technology will undergo as much change in the next 15 years.

Addressing the growing trend of trespasser incidents on U.S. railroads, Batory insisted that all stakeholders “join hands, publicly and privately, to increase public awareness.” Safety is “non-negotiable, uncompromising and unforgiving” and is “the foundation of success,” he proclaimed.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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