Letter Mail Controlled 05/25/2001 7:18:45 PM MC# 2010437: FRA provided an initial response for thls safety recommendation to the NTSB in our letter dated February 25, 1998. FRA advised that:
“Passenger railroads completed emergency window inspections under E.O. 20 by April 20, 1996. Most railroads have continued to include these inspections in periodic inspections of the equipment. FRA is preparing final rules based on proposals for regular inspection at a 180-day cycle. FRA may take interim action pending the effective date of the final rule, if necessary by amending the emergency order. As further information, we are advised that commuter railroads are voluntarily including checks of emergency windows in their periodic maintenance programs.” In its letter of September 30, 1999, the Board stated, in part, “We delayed responding because the FRA was developing rulemakings addressing several of these safety recommendations. Rather than delay our response any longer, the Safety Board has decided to reply to Safety Recommendations R-97-9 through -13 and -21 . Once we have carefully evaluated the new regulations, we will reply to Safety
Recommendations R-97-14 through -20.”
After FRA’s initial response, and before the Board’s September 30, 1999 reply, FRA published a Final Rule for 49 CFR Part 238, “Passenger Eqiiipinent Safety Standards,” in the Federal Register dated May 12, 1999. The rule became effective July 12, 1999. As you are aware, the construction of the Final Rule separated specific requirements into two separate “tiers.” Tier I was defined as “operating at speeds not exceeding 125 mph.” Tier 11 was defined as “operating at speeds exceeding 125 mph but not exceeding 150 mph.” Subpart D of the Final Rule contains “Inspection, Testing, and Maintenunce Requirements for Tier I Passenger Equipment,” and Subpart F contains “Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance Requirements for Tier 11 Passenger Equipment.”
For Tier 1 passenger equipment, within Subpart D of the Final Rule, new 0 238.307 “Periodic mechanical inspection of passenger cars and unpowered vehicles used in passenger trains,” is in relation to this recommendation. Specifically, this is addressed in paragraph (d) of 4 238.307, at subparagraph (4), as quoted below:
‘‘5 238.307 (d)
The periodic mechanical inspection shall specifically include the following interior and exterior mechanical components, which shall be inspected not less frequently than every 184 days. At a minimum, this inspection shall determine that:
Seats and seat attachments are not broken or loose.
Luggage racks are not broken or loose.
All beds and bunks are not broken or loose, and a11 restraints or safety
latches and straps are in place and function as intended.
A representative sample of emergency window exits on the railroad’s passenger ears properly operate, in accordance with the requirements of Sec. 239.107 of this chapter. Each coupler is in the following condition:
( 5 )
The distance between the guard arm and the knuckle nose is not
more than 51/2 inches on standard type couplers (MCB contour
1904), or not more than 55/16 inches on D&E couplers;
The free slack in the coupler or drawbar not absorbed by friction
devices or draft gears is not more than !4 inch; and
The draft gear is not broken.”
For Tier I1 passenger equipment, FRA did not incorporate a similar requirement in the Final Rule for reason that FRA is requiring more extensive safety planning requirements for Tier TI railroad operations. Provisions for Tier I1 passenger equipment are found in Subpart F, “Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance Requirements f o r Tier I1 Passenger Equipment,” of 49 CFR Part 238. As discussed in the 1997 NPRM, there is currently no operating history with regard to Tier II equipment, and thus there are no regulations or industry standards establishing detailed testing, inspection, or maintenance procedures, criteria, and intervals for the equipment. FRA believes
that the introduction of a new type of passenger equipment offers the opportunity for a fresh start. The final rule takes the approach to set general guidelines on the process to be used by the operating railroad, together with the system developer, to develop an inspection, testing, and maintenance program. The operating railroad and the system developer together have the best information, expertise, and resources necessary to develop the details of an effective inspection, testing, and maintenance program. The operating railroad is thereby granted some latitude to develop the operational details of the program, using the system safety process to justify the
safety decisions that are made. However, FRA intends to exercise final approval of the inspection, testing, and maintenance program posed by the operating railroads; rail labor organizations will be given an opportunity to discuss their concerns with FRA during the approval process set forth in 5 238.505. Tier JJ equipment may not be used prior to FRA approval of an inspection, testing, and maintenance program.
Section 238.503 of the Final Rule provides for each railroad shall obtain FRA approval of a written inspection, testing, and maintenance program for Tier II passenger equipment prior to implementation of that program and prior to commencing passenger operations using that equipment. Section 238.505 provides for the Program approval procedure. Paragraph (c) of Sec. 238.505, is quoted below:
(1) Within 60 days of receipt of each initial inspection, testing, and maintenance program, FRA will conduct a formal review of the program. FRA will then notify the primary railroad contact person and the designated employee representatives in writing whether the inspection, testing, and maintenance program is approved and, if not approved, the specific points in which the program is deficient. If a program is not approved by FRA, the railroad shall amend its program to correct all deficiencies and resubmit its program with the required revisions not later than 45 days prior to commencing passenger operations. (2) FRA will review each proposed amendment to the program within 45 days of receipt. FRA will then notify the primary railroad contact person and the designated employee representatives in writing whether the proposed amendment has been approved by FRA and, if not approved, the specific points in which the proposed amendment is deficient. The railroad shall correct any deficiencies and file the corrected amendment prior to implementing the amendment.
(3) Following initial approval of a program or amendment, FRA may reopen consideration of the program or amendment for cause stated. With respect to the proper operation of emergency exit windows in Tier II equipment, FRA as a general rule would apply, as a minimum, the Tier I inspection requirements when granting
approval of a railroad’s program.
Based upon the provisions contained in the Final Rule for inspection of emergency exit window inspection requirements, it is believed that FRA has accomplished the full intent of this recommendation by the Board. We, therefore, request the Board to consider classifyng Safety Recommendation R-97-18 as “Closed-Acceptable Action.”