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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-15-001
Details
Synopsis: On Friday, May 17, 2013, at 6:01 p.m. eastern daylight time, eastbound Metro-North passenger train 1548, which had departed Grand Central Terminal, New York, toward New Haven, Connecticut, derailed at milepost (MP) 53.25 from main track 4 of the New Haven line subdivision 7 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and was struck by westbound Metro-North passenger train 1581, which had departed New Haven bound for Grand Central Terminal. In the collision, the forward (F-end) or leading end of a passenger railcar of passenger train 1581 struck the trailing or back end (B-end) of a passenger railcar of passenger train 1548. (See Figure 1.) As a result of the collision, 63 passengers, 2 engineers, and 1 conductor were injured. Metro-North estimated that about 250 passengers were on each train at the time of the accident. The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the derailment was an undetected broken pair of compromise joint bars on the north rail of track 4 on the Metro-North New Haven subdivision at MP 53.25 resulting from: (1) the lack of a comprehensive track maintenance program that prioritized the inspection findings to schedule proper corrective maintenance; (2)the regulatory exemption for high-density commuter railroads from the requirement to traverse the tracks they inspect; and (3) Metro-North’s decisions to defer scheduled track maintenance.
Recommendation: TO THE FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION: Revise Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 238.213 to require the existing forward-end corner post strength requirements for the back-end corner posts of passenger railcars.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Open - Unacceptable Response
Mode: Railroad
Location: Bridgeport, CT, CT, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA-13-MR-003
Accident Reports:
Report #: RAB-14-09
Accident Date: 5/17/2013
Issue Date: 2/2/2015
Date Closed:
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: FRA (Open - Unacceptable Response)
Keyword(s):

Safety Recommendation History
From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 12/21/2018
Response: -From Ronald L. Batory, Administrator: In October 2015, FRA agreed with the NTSB about the importance of structurally sound passenger cars and explained that we had determined current Federal regulations achieve that objective. In November 2016, the NTSB again asked FRA to make a regulatory change. The NTSB stated that because multiple-track main lines exist on commuter rail systems, a similar accident could occur in which a derailed railcar drifts into the next track and into the path of an oncoming train. Rail safety is our priority, but amending or developing a regulation in reaction to a distinct accident is not inherently the most effective means to achieve overall safety improvements. Every potential regulation requires a cost-benefit analysis and an in-depth consideration of alternative methods for addressing an issue. Although we understand the NTSB's desire to prevent the consequences of this accident from recurring, FRA cannot justify mandating a change that would siphon funds away from more beneficial safety improvements. Executive Orders 12866 and 13771 require that the costs of a regulation be justified by verifiable and substantial benefits or cost savings. Such justification does not exist in this case. The NTSB contends that "it is reasonable to expect that a sideswipe collision could occur on any railroad with a track separation, which could allow a derailed railcar to drift into the clearance envelope of the adjacent track and potentially into the path of an oncoming train," but doesn't provide specific evidence to support that claim. FRA data suggest that the probability or risk of an accident like the one in Bridgeport in 2013 is low and does not justify a change to regulatory requirements for all new passenger equipment. In the Bridgeport accident, the railcar that was penetrated was fouling the track, obstructing the train that hit it, and was thus the cause of the collision. Obstruction impacts were the cause of only three percent of train collisions from 2010 through 2017-and the majority of those obstructions were not other trains. Therefore, the risk of this type of collision recurring is extremely low. Moreover, ifthat form of collision scenario does recur, the impact may not necessarily be at the ends of the railcar, which further reduces the potential benefits of implementing this recommendation. FRA formally discussed this topic with the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) to identify and analyze potential safety issues. Both organizations considered the recommendation and ultimately rejected it, agreeing that the risk posed was too small and that the proposed solution had additional challenges, including interference with updated technology and modern equipment design. On January 8, 2010, FRA published the final rule on Passenger Equipment Safety Standards; Front End Strength of Cab Cars and Multiple-Unit Locomotives, which enhanced requirements for the structural strength of the front end of cab cars and multiple unit (MU) locomotives (See 75 Fed. Reg. 1180). These requirements for front end structures were specifically established after years of regulatory development to protect against the risks associated with operating a cab car or MU locomotive at its forward end. FRA considered the function and placement of each car in a consist, and the types of operational conditions prevalent throughout, when developing the comer post requirements. The Bridgeport accident involved MU locomotives constructed under FRA's 2010 final rule, and FRA determined that the equipment performed as expected. Specifically, the comer posts on the non-cab end of the passenger equipment provided a level of protection against the side-swipe impact, as intended by the adoption of FRA • s original comer post strength requirements for noncab ends in 1999 (see 64 Fed. Reg. 25540, 25675), which continue to be codified at 49 CFR § 238.213(a). After fully analyzing and evaluating FRA's current safety data. existing safety regulations, the NTSB's findings, and the potential need for further rulemaking, FRA is not considering any changes to the passenger car comer post strength requirements at this time. FRA has seriously considered and researched this recommendation, but will not take any further action upon it. Therefore, we respectfully request that the NTSB close Safety Recommendation R-15-01.

From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 2/3/2017
Response: The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has reviewed the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), Passenger Equipment Safety Standards; Standards for Alternative Compliance and High-Speed Trainsets, published on December 6, 2016. Bridgeport, Connecticut R-15-01 (Status: Open- Unacceptable Response) Revise Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 238.213 to require the existing forward-end corner post strength requirements for the back-end corner posts of passenger railcars. R-15-02 (Status: Open- Unacceptable Response) Revise Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations Part 238 to incorporate a certificate of construction, similar to the one found at Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations 179.5, and require that the certificate be furnished prior to the in-service date of the railcar. Background On May 17, 2013, at 6:01 p.m. eastern daylight time, eastbound Metro-North Railroad (Metro-North) passenger train 1548, which had departed Grand Central Terminal (GCT), New York, New York, headed toward New Haven, Connecticut, derailed from main track 4 at milepost (MP) 53.25 on the New Haven Line Subdivision 7. The derailed train was then struck by westbound Metro-North passenger train 1581, which had departed New Haven, Connecticut, bound for GCT. As a result of the collision, at least 65 persons were injured. Metro-North estimated about 250 passengers were on each train at the time of the accident. The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the derailment was an undetected broken pair of compromise joint bars on the north rail of track 4 on the Metro-North Railroad New Haven subdivision at milepost 53.25 resulting from: (1) the lack of a comprehensive track maintenance program that prioritized the inspection findings to schedule proper corrective maintenance; (2) the regulatory exemption for high-density commuter railroads from the requirement to traverse the tracks they inspect; and (3) Metro-North's decisions to defer scheduled track maintenance. In its review of the NPRM, the NTSB notes that the above safety recommendations are not explicitly addressed in the language of the proposed rulemaking. We contend that the above safety recommendations would significantly enhance passenger transportation safety. The NTSB, therefore, strongly encourages the FRA to clearly incorporate these safety recommendations into the language of the new rulemaking.

From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 11/18/2016
Response: We note that, although you share our concern about the crashworthiness of passenger railcars, you believe that current Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regulations adequately address your strength requirements for back-end corner posts. Because multiple-track main lines—many of which have relatively close datum reference dimensions—exist on commuter rail lines, it is reasonable to expect that a sideswipe collision could occur on any railroad with a track separation. Such an event could allow a derailed railcar to drift into the clearance envelope of the adjacent track and potentially into the path of an oncoming train. Your response stated that you had determined the two Metro North trains involved in the May 17, 2013, accident performed as expected. We have not received an analysis of the testing you used, so we cannot determine whether the level of protection at the back end was indeed comparable to that at the forward end. Also, your letter does not mention any analysis you conducted regarding equipment performance at the middle of the train. We believe that you may be unclear as to the intended scope of Safety Recommendation R-15-001. Your letter states that the recommendation would require passenger railroads to modify every passenger car currently in operation at a tremendous cost to the rail industry, which is not our intent. Safety Recommendation R-15-001 is intended to be applied only to new passenger car manufacturing, not to any existing operational fleet. Accordingly, we urge you to reconsider your position and revise the regulation as requested. Pending your reply and subsequent action as recommended, Safety Recommendation R-15-001 is classified OPEN—UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 10/15/2015
Response: -From Sarah Feinberg, Acting Administrator: Thank you for your February 2, 2015, letter to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regarding the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) Safety Recommendations R-15-01 and R-15-02. FRA understands that the NTSB issued these recommendations as a result of the NTSB's investigation of the Metro-North Railroad accident involving two passenger trains in Bridgeport, CT on May 17, 2013. The enclosure to this letter contains FRA's careful analysis of Safety Recommendations R-15-01 and R-15-02 and explains the agency's findings with regard to the enactment of these recommendations. As explained below, FRA recognizes the importance of structurally sound passenger cars and has ensured that our Federal regulations achieve the safety result you recommend. FRA believes it has achieved the intent of this recommendation and does not plan to take further action with regard to either recommendation at this time. The Federal Railroad Administration shares the NTSB's concern regarding the crashworthiness of passenger railcars and diligently strives to provide sufficient safety requirement. After fully analyzing the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) current safety data, evaluating FRA's existing safety regulations, and reviewing the NTSB' s findings, FRA determined t at its current regulations on crashworthiness of comer posts do address the NTSB's safety concerns. Title 49 Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) Section 238.213, Corner posts, prescribes enhanced forward-end comer post strength requirements only for passenger-carrying locomotives (e.g., cab cars and multiple-unit locomotives). Requiring all ends of all passenger railcars to be designed to meet the forward-end requirements for passenger-carrying locomotives adds a negligible safety advantage, based on the risk level and load conditions for passenger cars no ally operating in the middle of a train, especially for designs where the corner posts are directly adjacent to a normally-occupied space (e.g., adjacent to a vestibule area or an equipment locker). The front, or "F-end," of a passenger-carrying locomotive is exposed to a higher level of risk of being involved in an accident, and has very different loading conditions (i.e., more severe impact loads or scenarios), compared to the potential accident loads seen by a passenger c ' in the middle of a train. The requirements for the F-end were specifically created to protect against the inherent risks associated with operating at the forward end of a train. Enhancing these requirements were the focus of years of regulatory development, culminating in FRA’s publication of the final rule on Front End Strength of Cab Cars and Multiple-Unit Locomotives on January 8, 2010 (75 Fed. Reg. 1180) based on consensus recommendations of FRA's Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC). Further, FRA has closely analyzed data for accidents from 2005 through 2014 involving passenger trains operating outside of yard tracks. During that period, there were 1,860 passenger train strikes on obstructions on the track, or highway vehicles at highway-rail grade crossings. These involved F-end impacts, in addition to 51 sideswipe collisions, raking incidents, or obstruction strikes on passenger cars behind the lead unit of the train, which typically involve accidents where the impact does not involve the F-end. Out of these 51 instances, a high percentage involved the middle of the car (rather than the end of the car) or would have occurred below the undercarriage of the car, which is below the level where comer posts may mitigate the effects of an incident. Based upon the limited number of accidents involving the ends of cars in the middle of a train, there is not enough statistical evidence to warrant the extension of the F-end strength requirements. Requiring all ends of all passenger cars to be designed to meet the F-end requirements for passenger-carrying locomotives is not cost efficient based upon the risk level for passenger cars in the middle of a train. FRA considered the function and placement of each car in consist, and the types of operational conditions prevalent throughout, when developing the come post requirements. Train accidents involving a substantial load impacting the middle of a train, as in the Metro-North Railroad (Metro-North) accident, make up a very small percentage of accidents and corrective action would require passenger railroads to modify every passenger car currently in operation throughout the Unites States at a tremendous cost to the industry. The design variations for the F-end require more material, engineering costs, and higher production cost per car. In reviewing the Metro-North accident, which involved two trains made up of multiple-unit locomotives, FRA determined that the equipment performed as expected. Specifically, the F-end performed as expected, and the corner posts on the non-cab end of the equipment so provided a level of protection against the side-swipe impact, as intended by the adoption of the original corner post strength requirements for non-cab ends. The Metro-North accident was the first major accident involving equipment developed under the 2010 final rule on passenger-carrying locomotive front-end strength, cited above. FRA continues to use RSAC to identify and analyze potential safety issues, such a comer post strength conditions, and, consequently, the need for further rulemaking. At this time, RSAC is not considering any changes to the strength requirements for passenger car corner posts.

From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 8/4/2015
Response: We are encouraged to learn that your Motive Power and Equipment Division is currently gathering information and conducting research prior to determining your course of action to address these recommendations. We look forward to hearing from you regarding your plans for implementing them. Pending our receipt of a detailed response indicating how the FRA will address Safety Recommendations R-15-01 and -02, they remain classified OPEN—AWAIT RESPONSE.

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 5/5/2015
Response: -From Robert C. Lauby, Associate Administrator for Railroad Safety, Chief Safety Officer: Thank you for your February 2, 2015, letter to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regarding the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) Safety Recommendations R-15-01 and R-15-02. FRA understands that the NTSB issued these recommendations as a result of the NTSB's investigation into the derailment and subsequent collision of two Metro North Railroad (Metro-North) passenger trains in Bridgeport, CT, on May 17, 2013. Safety Recommendation R-15-01 asks FRA to "revise Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Section 238.213, Corner posts, to require the existing forward-end corner post strength requirements for the back-end corner posts of passenger railcars." Safety Recommendation R-15-02 asks FRA to "revise 49 CFR Part 238, Passenger Equipment Safety Standards, to incorporate a certificate of construction, similar to the one found at 49 CFR § 179.5, Certificate of construction, and require that the certificate be furnished prior to the in-service date of the railcar." Title 49 U.S.C Section 1135 states, "the Secretary [of Transportation] shall give to the [NTSB] a formal written response to each recommendation not later than 90 days after receiving the recommendation." This letter acknowledges receipt of these recommendations to FRA. FRA's Motive Power and Equipment Division is currently gathering information and conducting research to enable FRA to fully address these recommendations. FRA takes these recommendations seriously, and assures the NTSB that a complete and thorough investigation will be reflected in its final response. We look forward to continuing to work with you on important safety issues.