The Train Occupant Protection Program will carry out research on structural crashworthiness and interior safety of locomotives and in intercity and commuter rail cars, with the aim of improving the survivability of rail passengers and crewmembers in accidents.
The commuter rail environment has changed significantly in the past decade. Commuter rail operations nationwide are growing to meet increasing demands for service. In some metropolitan areas, operations are expanding. In others, commuter rail is finally becoming a reality. Some of the start-ups of the 1990s are now major railroads. Commuter railroads have welcomed newcomers on the manufacturing side. They are also taking advantage of new technologies to improve efficiency and safety. The overall safety record of inter-city and commuter passenger train operations in the United States have been very good. However, there are hazards involved in rail travel, as there are in all forms of transportation. In the event of a collision or derailment, train occupants are subjected to risk of injury from loss of occupied space and/or the secondary forces generated as they impact interior surfaces during the ride-down phase of the incident. In the event of a fire, passengers are subjected to risk of smoke inhalation and/or burning. Once the train has come to a complete stop, passengers must determine the appropriate action to take and may have to quickly locate, reach, and operate emergency exits to self-evacuate. Should emergency responder assistance be necessary for evacuation of occupants, emergency responders must be familiar with the operating environment, as well as the particular rail equipment involved.
Consequently, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has been very active in the development of federal regulations and the support of industry standards for the safety of passenger rail equipment, including crashworthiness, fire safety, and emergency preparedness. FRA and the industry must remain vigilant to ensure that passenger railroads continue to be operated at a high level of safety, and there are several initiatives underway to promote the safety of passenger rail operations.
The objectives of the train occupant protection research program, consistent with the Departmental strategic goals, are to promote and improve safety on the national passenger rail transportation system. The research program is geared towards the development of information that will be used as the basis for making and updating the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and industry standards. FRA's Train Occupant Protection R&D Program is structured into subprogram areas of research outlined below.