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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Passenger Rail Risk Studies

The conducting of risk assessments serves as both the starting point in any research program and can be used to justify the cost/benefits necessary to develop either regulatory or industry standards or revisions to existing standards. There are three key tasks to be conducted parallel to the risk aspect of the research program: continuation of the accident Field Investigation Study, development of risk assessment models for introduction of new or alternative passenger rail equipment on existing rail lines, and the development of risk methodology applicable to new start operating authorities. 

A derailed passenger train.Current Projects:

Field Investigation Study

The on-going Field Investigation Study has an objective to determine the range of occupant injuries and associated causal mechanisms for such injuries in passenger train accidents or derailments. If an accident or derailment of sufficient severity occurs, a group of FRA field inspectors in conjunction with Volpe Center staff, investigate the accident and try to reconstruct how the occupants and/or crew members are injured. The investigating team is split into sub-groups to review structural damage to the exterior of the train and through individual cars along the length of the train, conduct detailed forensic reviews of the interior of each car and the locomotive in the train, and conduct interviews at hospitals. After individual tasks are completed, the teams meet and compare notes to better refine how individuals were injured or to assess how the structural crashworthiness of the train or cars effected the interior occupant environment. This information is used to develop analytical models to assess occupant dynamic response to specific collision environments.

Alternative Equipment Risk Assessments

The second risk-related study is associated with reviewing new or alternative designs which are being proposed for use on the North American rail network. The introduction of equipment designed to standards other than those specified in the Code of Federal Regulations, poses a problem not only to the car builder, operating authority and their consultants, but also to FRA’s Office of Safety. Therefore, this project will review the current international interoperability crashworthiness standards in relation to the requirements set forth in 49 CRF Parts 238 to assess potential compatibilities of such designs as well as areas where additional design work may be required on new equipment or the application of other system constraints to assure equivalent levels of performance in the event of typical collision or derailment scenarios. To accomplish this goal, a generic system safety plan and hazard analysis program will be developed to serve as a template for how to approach this issue. 

Industry Guideline for New Start Operating Authorities

The development of a set of guidelines which can be used by start-up operating authorities on how to run a safe railroad. The task objectives are the development of guidelines to ensure that a holistic review of the proposed service is conducted, prior to revenue service, and to ensure safe operations. Review of current operating, infrastructure and equipment maintenance practices and equipment specifications will serve as input into a generic system safety plan and a hazard analysis program will be developed to serve as a template for how to approach this issue. Incident Information Management System Evaluation : Provide independent validation and verification (IV&V) and evaluation support to the Office of Safety’s pilot Incident Information Management System (IIMS) Project. 

Collision Hazard Analysis for Commuter/Intercity Rail Service

Support of FRA’s Commuter Rail System Safety Program Plan initiative by providing information and processes on conducting collision hazards analysis.