News & Publications

Rail Law Alert No. 6

FRA Advisory Committee Recommends Adoption of Revised High-Speed Rail Crashworthiness Standards

On June 14, 2013, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced that its Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) voted unanimously to recommend that the FRA promulgate new regulations regarding crashworthiness performance standards for high-speed rail equipment.  The FRA is currently working to develop the new standards, which are expected to be published in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking later this year.  The standards, which would cover rail equipment that could travel up to speeds of 220 mph on dedicated high-speed rail lines and 125 mph on existing shared passenger-freight lines, are intended to move away from FRA’s longstanding focus on prescriptive design standards.  Instead, FRA’s new requirements would assess crashworthiness according to design-neutral, performance-based standards, which would permit use of a greater range of alternative “service proven” designs and advanced technologies.  In announcing the RSAC’s recommendation, FRA administrator Joseph Szabo noted that the standards “will better align our approach to passenger safety and the use of rail equipment with the rest of the world.”