New FRA high speed passenger rule could open door for more equipment options

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WASHINGTON — The Federal Railroad Administration issued a final rule for passenger equipment, allowing high-speed operation up to 220 mph and establishing crashworthiness and rider-protection standards intended to allow more options for U.S. operators.

The FRA says these requirements will “remove regulatory barriers and enable use of new technological designs, allowing a more open U.S. rail market.”

The rule creates new Tier III safety standards, which enable operation of passenger trains on existing track at speeds up to 125 mph, or up to 220 mph on a dedicated right-of-way without grade crossings. At speeds not exceeding 125 mph, these trains will be able share the right-of-way with other passenger and freight operations.

The FRA also increased the maximum speed allowed for Tier II equipment on Class 8 track from 150 mph to 160 mph.

New safety-design criteria for Tier I trainsets will alleviate the need for waivers and could allow U.S. operators to use technology already in use on trainsets elsewhere in the world. The FRA looked at such trainsets, including those adopting crash-energy management innovations, and adapted these technologies in view of North American operating conditions.

Overall cost savings up to $1.6 billion over 30 years are possible through use of new trainset designs and by allowing high speed operators to use existing rights-of-way in densely-built urban areas, thus avoiding new construction.

“These new regulations were made possible by a wealth of FRA research, reinforcing our unwavering commitment to safety,” says FRA administrator Ronald L. Batory.

The FRA estimates the rule could save more than $475 million in regulatory costs.

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