FRA Responds: Amtrak Will Be Able to Use “Proven” Trainsets

On Monday, we featured a Systemic Failure post about FRA regulations in our morning round-up from the Streetsblog Network. Systemic Failure indicated — and Streetsblog repeated — that the FRA was unwilling to change its rules to allow Amtrak to use “off-the-shelf” trainsets and other equipment.

The Systemic Failure post consists almost entirely of the FRA’s own words, from its final rule on high-speed safety standards. Still, FRA says we got it wrong.

In an email statement yesterday, agency spokesperson Kevin Thompson said:

The FRA and Amtrak are working very closely and cooperatively with each other and worldwide train manufactures through the Rail Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) to achieve a consensus on safety design standards. There is unanimous consensus on the path forward with all of our stakeholders, including Amtrak, all international railcar manufacturers and other partners. Together through the RSAC process we are writing safety standards will allow proven trainsets used in other countries to operate in the U.S. market. Our process is and has always been a fluid and iterative process. Collectively, our goal is to establish and implement safety standards that are appropriate for U.S. operating environments so that passengers, employees and communities along rail routes are and remain safe.

It’s hard to reconcile this with the agency’s final rule refusing to change the previous rule that resulted in expensive, custom-made Acela trains, but it’s good to hear from FRA that the agency is working toward a solution that might lower costs. Still, “proven trainsets used in other countries” could mean many things. Readers, are you reassured?