USA: The Federal Railroad Administration has amended its safety standards for passenger trains to create a new category covering trains operating at speeds up to 220 miles/h (355 km/h), in what it said was ‘one of the most significant enhancements to the nation’s passenger rail design standards in a century’.

The final rule follows a review of trends in the international supply sector and the US operating environment which was was undertaken by an engineering task force including FRA technical staff and representatives from rail operators, trade unions and the supply industry.

The review recommended that FRA should add a third category to its speed and safety rating system for passenger trains, covering trains which can operate at conventional speeds on existing infrastructure or at up to 355 km/h on purpose-built lines.

This is intended to allow services to run through from dedicated high speed lines onto existing mixed traffic routes, avoiding the cost of building new infrastructure in dense urban areas.

The final rule also establishes performance-based requirements for Tier III vehicle structures, window glazing, brake systems, interior fittings and surfaces, emergency systems (including window egress and rescue access requirements) and cab equipment.

Under previous regulations, US operators have had limited procurement options or have needed to request waivers to be able to use technologies available in the international rail market.

The final rule which comes into effect on January 22 2019 will be a deregulatory action under Executive Order (EO) 13771, ‘Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs’. According to FRA, it is expected to save more than $475m in net regulatory costs.

FRA train categories
Tier I Operating at up to 125 mile/h (200 km/h) on mixed traffic routes
Tier II Operating at up to 160 mile/h (257 km/h) an increase from the previous 150 mile/h limit
Tier III Operating at up to 220 mile/h (355 km/h) on purpose-built lines with exclusive use and no level crossings, or below 125 mile/h (200 km/h) on mixed traffic lines