U.S. DOT releases high-speed rail design standards

Posted on August 31, 2010

On Tuesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the first-ever uniform technical standards for the manufacture of high-speed intercity passenger railcars, a development that will enhance the ability of U.S. manufacturers to compete in what is set to become a burgeoning industry.

A uniform standard creates a level playing field and economies of scale based on a common set of designs and technical requirements allowing U.S. based manufacturers to more effectively compete. Fostering healthy economic competition will drive down costs for rail owners and operators and the traveling public.

Maintenance and repair costs will also be lower because of lower parts acquisition costs, while training can be streamlined with just one type of equipment, allowing faster turnaround for repairs, added the U.S. DOT.

The first technical standard will apply to bi-level passenger railcars for use in high-speed passenger rail operations.

"This is a milestone in the history of rail transportation," said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. "These standardized bi-level passenger railcars will be able to operate nationwide and are compatible with existing equipment. A common design also makes it easier to train maintenance personnel, stock parts and perform repairs, which reduces costs."

New bi-level cars will meet all current safety requirements and regulations, as well as be able to satisfy future regulations for crash energy management. As existing passenger rail vehicles are replaced, the addition of new stock will enhance system safety.

The standards will ensure that newly manufactured cars can be used with the current passenger locomotive fleet, either alone or with existing bi-level cars, and are designed to accommodate entry and departure from low-level platforms. The new cars will also be Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant.

The establishment of technical standards for high-speed rail operations is required by the Passenger Railroad Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 and was developed by the Technical Subcommittee of the Section 305 Next Generation Equipment Committee.

Similar standards for single-level passenger rail cars are expected to be adopted by the end of the year.


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