FRA seeks new passenger train safety rules

January 4, 2012

Improvements to existing passenger train emergency systems regulations have been proposed by the Federal Railroad Administration.

The improvements are aimed at helping passengers and passenger-train crew members better locate and operate emergency exits during evacuations, and to assist first responders in reaching trapped passengers more quickly.

U.S. passenger railroads, including Amtrak and commuter carriers already have the most advanced passenger safety regulations on the globe. The Congressional Budget Office reported in 2003 that European and Asian nations impose lower crashworthiness standards than are imposed in the United States.

Specifically, the proposed new rules affect vestibule doors, emergency lighting, signage and markings for emergency entrances and exits, and rescue access. The new rules also require photo luminescent materials to highlight emergency exit path markings, and require instructions for emergency systems operations and requirements for debriefing after emergency situations and simulations.

“The proposed new requirements are based on the latest developments in passenger train emergency system technologies and best practices,” said FRA Administrator Joe Szabo.

UTU National Legislative Director James Stem said, “These amendments to the passenger train emergency systems rules are based on improvements in modern technology and the experiences of many years of operations.”

The proposed new rules were recommended by the FRA’s Railroad Safety Advisory Committee’s (RSAC) Passenger Safety Working Group and its Emergency Preparedness Task Force, and incorporate three industry standards developed by the American Public Transportation Association.

UTU members participating in making the recommendations included District of Columbia Legislative Director Willie Bates (Local 1933), Long Island Rail Road Vice General Chairperson Michael Denn (GO 505), and retired Amtrak Local Chairperson David Brooks (Local 1470).

To read the Jan. 3 Federal Register Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, click here.