NORTH OLMSTED, Ohio (Dec. 19) — SMART Transportation Division is assisting as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) conducts its investigation and offers its sincere condolences to the victims and families of those affected by the Dec. 18 Amtrak Cascades derailment outside of DuPont, Wash.
Members of SMART TD’s national Safety Task Force have responded to the accident scene and will work along with the NTSB and other rail investigators to help determine probable cause of the accident and to make appropriate safety recommendations at the conclusion of the investigation.
SMART TD has a Party Status agreement with the NTSB that makes the federal agency the chief source of information for this and other accident probes involving trains. Because of this, neither the union nor its representatives will make any official comments as to the status of the accident investigation or the events leading up to the accident. All media inquiries should be directed to the NTSB, which will provide details about the accident and the investigation. Any comment on the investigation from current or former members does not speak for the union or its membership.
“We will await the facts of the investigation and will not speculate in any way about the circumstances leading up to this accident,” SMART TD President John Previsich said. “We offer our sincere condolences to the victims and families of the victims of the Cascades derailment, and our personnel will help investigators as they look for answers as to the cause of this tragedy.”
The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of crafts in the transportation industry.
The Federal Railroad Administration is proposing to improve the integrity of passenger train exterior side door safety systems and promote passenger train safety overall through new safety standards relating to the safe operation and use of passenger train exterior side doors.
This proposed rule is based on recommended language developed by the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee’s (RSAC) General Passenger Safety Task Force and includes new requirements for both powered and manual exterior side doors and door safety systems on passenger trains.
Proposed operating rules for train crews relating to exterior side doors and their safety systems on passenger trains as well as new definitions are also included in this NPRM. In addition, the rule proposes to incorporate American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) “Standard for Powered Exterior Side Door System Design for New Passenger Cars,” which contains a set of minimum standards for powered exterior side door systems and door system functioning on new rail passenger cars and locomotives used in passenger service.
Other proposed requirements include, but are not limited to: Equipping new passenger cars with powered side doors with an obstruction detection system and a door by-pass feature; connecting new passenger cars with either manual or powered exterior side doors to a door summary circuit to prohibit the train from developing tractive power if any of the exterior side doors are open; safety briefing for train crews to identify crewmember responsibilities as they relate to the safe operation of the exterior side doors; operating passenger trains with their exterior side doors trap doors closed when in motion between stations, except in limited circumstances or if prior approval has been received from FRA; and railroads developing operating rules on how to safely override a door summary circuit or a no-motion system, or both, as well as how to safely operate the exterior side doors of a passenger train with incompatible exterior side door safety systems.
Through this rulemaking, FRA intends to limit the number and severity of injuries associated with the use and operation of passenger train exterior side doors and increase the overall level of safety for passengers and train crewmembers.
FRA analyzed the economic impacts of this proposed rule against a “no action” baseline that reflects what would happen in the absence of this proposed rule. The proposed operating rules and adopted APTA standard for new equipment are expected to prevent about 19 injuries and 0.20 fatalities per year in the future on average, based on similar incidents in the past. The estimated benefits from these prevented casualties over a 20-year period total $81.9 million undiscounted; these estimated benefits have a present value calculated using a 7 percent discount rate of $42.4 million, and a present value calculated using a 3 percent discount rate of $60.3 million.
Given that some procedural and equipment errors may still occur in the future, the analysis assumes a 50 percent effectiveness rate in preventing these types of injuries and fatalities. In addition, there may be other benefits from the proposed rule, such as fewer passenger claims for personal property damage, maintaining passenger goodwill and trust (by reducing these low-frequency but typically highly-publicized incidents), and by lowering future maintenance costs (through encouraging the replacement of older equipment with new passenger cars equipped with more reliable door safety systems).
FRA also quantified the incremental burden of the proposed rule upon commuter and intercity passenger railroads. The primary contributor to the estimated costs is the train crew’s task of verifying that the door by-pass devices on the train are sealed in the normal non-by-pass mode, a requirement in the proposed operating rules. The door by-pass devices are used to override door safety systems in certain circumstances, for example, allowing a train to develop tractive power and complete its route.
The second greatest cost factor is the estimated cost to implement some of the proposed door safety features on new passenger cars and locomotives used in passenger service with either powered or manual doors. The estimated costs over the 20-year period of analysis total $15 million undiscounted, with a present value calculated using a seven percent discount rate of about $8 million, and a present value calculated using a three percent discount rate of about $11.2 million. The proposed rule incurs relatively small costs because most of the initial burdens are expected from changes to railroad operating rules.
The design standards for door safety systems apply to new passenger cars and locomotives used in passenger service where they can be installed cost-effectively.
These costs and benefits result in net positive benefits over 20 years of about $67 million.