WASHINGTON — To increase public awareness about the causes of specific train accidents and to reduce the need for individuals to submit Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is for the first time making its investigation reports of major train accidents and other incidents available online, FRA Administrator Joseph H. Boardman announced.
“There’s no reason that anyone who’s interested shouldn’t be able to find out the probable cause of a train accident,” said Boardman, explaining that formal FRA accident investigation reports generally focus on high-consequence train-to-train collisions, derailments, certain highway-rail grade crossing collisions, and all railroad employee fatalities.
Boardman said that the Factual Investigation Reports now posted on the FRA Web site contain detailed narratives describing the circumstances of the accident or incident and provide an analysis of the facts and FRA’s conclusion as to why the event occurred. Making this information more accessible will benefit railroads, railroad employees, state and local officials, communities, shippers, insurers and others directly or indirectly impacted by these events, he added.
FRA accident investigation reports for all of 2005 and 2006 and the first quarter of 2007 are online now. The reports for the remainder of 2007 will be posted in the coming months, and those for 2008 as well as all future reports will be made available online as they are completed and finalized, Boardman said. A major train accident or incident investigation typically takes six to nine months to complete, and no portions of reports are made public until an investigation is finalized.
An up-to-date listing of all active, open and ongoing investigations will also be posted online.
The FRA continuously monitors the occurrence of train accidents and incidents in real time. FRA field personnel are routinely dispatched to the scene of serious accidents in order to determine whether an investigation is warranted. During an investigation, a team of subject experts undertake a methodical examination of the event, and also assess compliance with the existing safety laws and regulations.
If the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) also decides to investigate the same event, by law it assumes primary responsibility for managing the investigative process with FRA performing a concurrent supporting role. FRA does not typically release its own report about an accident until the NTSB has issued its findings.
Due to size constraints and other considerations, attachments and exhibits associated with the FRA investigation reports are not being posted online, and will continue to be available only through a FOIA request. The accident/incident reports that railroads are required by federal law to routinely file with the FRA will continue to be available online. Individuals may sign up for automatic email notification of when a new investigation report is added to the public Web page.
The accident investigation webpage can be accessed at http://www.fra.dot.gov/us/content/1696.