Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo formally announced the approval of the Texas-based Denton County Transportation Authority’s (DCTA) request to operate the Stadler GTW concurrent with traditional, compliant equipment at the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) Annual Rail Conference.
The approval means that for the first time ever; lightweight/fuel efficient, eco-friendly low-floor vehicles will be permitted to operate in rail corridors concurrently with traditionally compliant vehicles. The waiver, a first of its kind, will expand commuter rail options for transportation authorities across the U.S.
In 2009, the FRA’s Rail Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) prepared a set of technical criteria and procedures for evaluating passenger rail train-sets that have been built to alternative designs. The alternative designs enable lighter, more fuel-efficient rail vehicles equipped with a Crash Energy Management system to commingle with traditionally compliant equipment. The DCTA/Stadler alternative design waiver is the first comprehensive submittal that follows the RSAC Engineering Task Force procedures for Tier I equipment.
The approval of the DCTA/Stadler waiver request demonstrates that the enhanced crashworthiness and passenger protection systems inherent to DCTA’s new rail vehicles meet the latest and most stringent safety standards in the U.S.
Stadler, DCTA and LTK Engineering Services, have been working closely with the FRA to achieve this waiver since 2009. DCTA partnered with Stadler to make modifications and enhancements to the GTW to comply with the required safety guidelines. Modifications include changes to the fuel tank design, window glazing and passenger and operator seats.
DCTA purchased 11 diesel-electric GTW 2/6 articulated rail vehicles from Stadler. The vehicles are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and incorporate enhanced air conditioning, passenger information system, video surveillance and numerous FRA compliant elements. The spacious interior has room for wheelchairs, strollers and bicycles. There are 104 seats and standing room for 96 persons in every vehicle along with bright compartments, large windows and comfortable seating.
DCTA and Stadler will begin integrating the cars into service this summer.