U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced last week the first-ever uniform technical standards for the manufacture of high-speed intercity passenger rail cars, a development that will enhance the ability of U.S. manufacturers to compete in what is set to become a burgeoning industry.
“As part of the Obama Administration’s focus on maximizing manufacturing opportunities, these first-ever uniform standards will provide an unprecedented opportunity for manufacturers in the U.S. – from rails to wheel bearings, to final assembly – to build a strong, stable manufacturing base,” said Secretary LaHood.
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. Further, maintenance and repair costs will be lower because of lower parts acquisition costs. And, training can be streamlined with just one type of equipment, allowing faster turnaround for repairs.
The first technical standard will apply to bi-level passenger rail cars 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 rail cars 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.
Similar standards for single-level passenger rail cars are expected to be adopted by the end of the year.
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. Members include the Federal Railroad Administration, Amtrak and state Departments of Transportation. The subcommittee also received input and participation from rail industry manufacturers, freight railroads and transportation associations.