Proposed Upgrade of Emergency Systems to Improve Safety of Passenger Rail Cars

WASHINGTON – Passenger and commuter rail cars will be required to have more emergency safety features, including additional window exits, under proposed regulations announced by Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph H. Boardman.

“Every American who travels by train deserves the highest level of safety possible,” Boardman said. “Serious passenger rail accidents are rare, but being better prepared to handle them provides an important level of safety,” he added noting that the proposed changes will affect both existing and newly manufactured passenger rail cars.

Under the proposed rule, passenger rail cars will be required to have additional emergency window exits and rescue access windows on each side of the car, Boardman stated. This will allow passengers to exit, and emergency responders to enter, each seating compartment faster and more easily, he explained. And, the regulations will provide for emergency roof access locations on all passenger rail cars.

Each passenger rail car also will be required to have enhanced emergency communication systems, Boardman added. The installation of both public address and intercom systems will allow train crews to provide guidance to all passengers in the event of an emergency situation and enable individual passengers to quickly report potential safety problems to conductors.

Boardman said the proposed rule changes are the latest in a series of actions taken by FRA since 1998 to improve passenger rail safety. Just this year, a full-scale passenger car crash test was successfully performed to evaluate the integration of Crash Energy Management technology designed to keep a train upright on the tracks and prevent passenger seating areas from being crushed in the event of a serious impact. And, FRA unveiled a simulator that can rotate a full-sized commuter rail car up to 180 degrees to help train emergency responders how to rescue passengers involved in rollover train accidents.

Written comments on the proposed changes may be submitted until Oct. 23, 2006.

– Special to News Wire