Transportation Rail Federal agencies

Agency announces another delay of safety program requirement for passenger railroads

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Washington – The Federal Railroad Administration again is delaying its requirement for commuter and intercity passenger railroads to create and implement a system safety program.

The requirement, which was set to go into effect Dec. 4, is being pushed back by one year. FRA initially published its final rule on Aug. 12, 2016, with an effective date of Oct. 11, 2016, but has delayed that on multiple occasions, including four times this year.

The agency’s stated reasons for the latest delay include “multiple requests for a continued stay of the rule, the comment received supporting a stay, the lack of opposition to a stay in either the comments or at the public [Railroad Safety Advisory Committee] meeting (on Oct. 30), and FRA’s interest in addressing the issues raised in the State petitions prior to requiring full compliance with the SSP final rule,” according to a Nov. 30 Federal Register notice.

FRA defines an SSP as a structured, proactive program designed to identify, mitigate and eliminate hazards on a railroad system. An SSP “encourages a railroad and its employees to work together to proactively identify hazards and to jointly determine what, if any, action to take to mitigate or eliminate the resulting risk,” the agency states, adding that the rule provides each railroad with “a certain amount of flexibility to tailor its SSP to its specific operations.”

The rule allows FRA to approve the SSPs that railroads submit and audit compliance to them.

Petitions for reconsideration of the delay can be submitted until Jan. 19. FRA is accepting comments in response to those petitions until March 5.

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