FRA issues final rule for high-speed passenger rail operations

The rule paves the way for U.S. high-speed passenger trains to safely travel as fast as 220 mph

November 21, 2018
high-speed rail

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (U.S. DOT) Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued a final rule establishing safety standards for railroad passenger equipment.

The rule represents one of the most significant enhancements to the nation’s passenger rail design standards in a century, paving the way for U.S. high-speed passenger trains to safely travel as fast as 220 mph.

“These new regulations were made possible by a wealth of FRA research, reinforcing our unwavering commitment to safety,” FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory said in a release.

The final rule defines a new category of high-speed rail operations and makes it possible for high-speed rail to utilize existing infrastructure, saving the expense of building new rail lines. These new Tier III passenger trains can operate over this shared track at conventional speeds, and as fast as 220 mph in areas with exclusive rights-of-way and without grade crossings.

The final rule also establishes minimum safety standards for these trains, focusing on system design criteria. FRA estimates that the rule will improve safety because of expected improvements made by the railroads to accommodate the operation of high-speed rail equipment in shared rights-of-way. The rule is expected to save more than $475 million in net regulatory costs.

The final rule continues to define Tier I as trains operating in shared rights-of-way at speeds up to 125 mph, and it also allows state-of-the-art, alternative designs for equipment operating at these conventional speeds. Tier II trains are defined as those traveling between 125-160 mph, an increase from the previous 150 mph limit. This supports a competitive operating environment for U.S. companies seeking to offer travelers more passenger rail options. By enabling the use of advanced equipment-safety technologies, this final rule helps eliminate the need for waivers.


Source: Federal Railroad Administration