FRA: Passenger Train Safety to Be Improved with New Requirements for Emergency Communication, Evacuation, and Rescue Features

WASHINGTON — Commuter and intercity passenger rail equipment will be safer under a new federal rule that ensures improved emergency window exit availability, specifies additional emergency rescue features, and requires two-way communication systems, Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph H. Boardman said.

“These safety features will help rail passengers evacuate from a train more quickly and provide emergency responders additional ways to reach trapped or injured riders should the need arise,” Boardman said.

The new regulations issued by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) mandate that passenger rail cars be equipped with two-way communication systems that better help train crews inform and instruct passengers during emergency situations and allow passengers to report potential safety or security problems to them, according to Boardman.

Also, emergency evacuation and rescue access windows are required at all levels with passenger seating, and all new passenger rail cars must be equipped with emergency roof access locations, he added.  In addition, the rule includes minimum requirements for the inspection, testing, maintenance, and repair of these safety systems.

The new rule also addresses a safety recommendation made and other concerns raised by the National Transportation Safety Board following fatal passenger train accidents including an April 2002 collision between a BNSF Railway freight train and a Metrolink passenger train in Placentia, Calif., and a February 1996 collision between two New Jersey Transit commuter trains in Secaucus, N.J.

Boardman added that a related FRA rulemaking proposing to enhance passenger rail car emergency lighting systems, exit path markings, and emergency signage is expected to be completed later this year.