Mineta Offers Plan to Improve U.S. Rail Safety

“We will work to reduce accidents caused by human error, address railroad operator fatigue, improve track safety and enhance the safety of hazardous materials shipments,” said the Secretary. “We will also seek to improve highway-rail grade crossing safety and to bring federal inspection and enforcement resources to bear where they are needed most.”

Mineta has asked the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee – which was established to advice the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on rail safety issue – to develop recommendations for a federal rule that will address human factors which are the greatest cause of train accidents. Those recommendations are to be given to the DOT by September 2006 so it can create a new rule to address the issue.

With track defects – including broken joint bars and broken rails -- as the second greatest cause of train accidents, the FRA is researching a photo imaging system to capture and analyze images of joint bars to detect cracks. Joint bars are the steel bars used to join together track sections. Research is scheduled to be completed by October 2005.

A number of other efforts at improving U.S. rail safety are contained in the Plan, information on which can be found at the government agency’s web site, http://www.dot.gov/.

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