Government Issues

FTA issues safety advisory on third rail system hazards

Posted on May 25, 2016

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) issued Safety Advisory 16-2 to collect information from State Safety Oversight Agencies (SSOAs) regarding the condition and safety performance of contact rail (third rail) traction power electrification systems at rail transit agencies within their jurisdiction.

In recent months, FTA has investigated several safety events related to third-rail system failures, including smoke incidents, explosions, intense fires, damage to railcar propulsion equipment, and exacerbated deterioration of poor track conditions.

Specifically, the safety directive is requesting that each SSOA provide FTA with a description of any major upgrade to the third rail system or traction power cables within the past 10 years, a listing of any third-rail system corrective action plans approved by the SSOA since 2012, and detailed information regarding smoke/fire events during 2015, among other items. FTA requires that SSOAs submit the requested information within 90 days.

There are 13 rail transit agencies with third-rail traction power electrification systems: New York City Transit, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Miami-Dade Transit, Maryland Transit Administration, Puerto Rico Highways and Transportation Authority, Port Authority Transit Corp. and Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.

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