WES Isn't the Country's Only DMU Problem Child

http://www.railwayage.com//content/view/847/121

Seems WES isn't the only problem child.  Austin can't seem to get their line finished for anything.  It's late, and getting later.  I doubt however, that they have anywhere near the issues with the vehicles once they get them running.  The tracks & systems however, raise suspicion since they're delayed so much…  hmmm.

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8 Comments

  1. Well, it sounds like part of it may be the FRA’s doing:

    A year ago, Capital Metro and the Federal Railroad Administration were at odds over engineer certification and emergency preparedness, issues which lingered into this year. FRA also classified Cap Metro’s fleet of six Stadler-Bussnag diesel units as “commuter rail,” rejecting a request to classify the system as a diesel light-rail transit (DLRT) system

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  2. Yeah. I do remember all that mess happening. Once again, the FRA getting in the way of passenger rail running instead of helping it.

    So…

    …freaking…

    …frustrating.

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  3. "FRA also classified Cap Metro’s fleet of six Stadler-Bussnag diesel units as “commuter rail,” rejecting a request to classify the system as a diesel light-rail transit (DLRT) system comparable to San Diego County, Calif.’s SPRINTER service or New Jersey Transit’s RiverLINE operation."

    First of all there is no such thing as "diesel light-rail transit" in the CFR. Look it up yourself (http://www.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/cfrassemble.cgi?title=200849). It’s either light rail (and not regulated by the FRA) or it’s not (and is regulated by the FRA).

    Secondly, the Sprinter and Riverline aren’t categorized as "diesel light-rail transit". They are systems that operate on FRA regulated railroads which obtained a waiver of certain FRA requirements under the condition that there is a physical disconnect between the passenger operations and freight operations – namely, there are main track derails installed, opened and locked to prevent a freight train from entering the track where the passenger trains run. Only when passenger trains are parked and not carrying riders can the derails be closed.

    It is this law that "required" TriMet to purchase the Colordado Railcar DMUs – Portland & Western refused to halt freight traffic during passenger operations and the FRA refused to grant a waiver of any other type of vehicle. The CRC DMU was the only vehicle of its type to meet the requirements of 49CFR238.203 (http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/cfr_2008/octqtr/49cfr238.203.htm).

    As far as I can determine, the FRA granting a waiver is a mere convenience matter of the FRA and is not specifically codified – the FRA is not required to grant any waivers, but in the public interest does so to permit these operations when it is absolutely certain that the safety concern cannot exist (thus the derails).

    Yes, maybe this law is ridiculous but you can be certain if this law were repealed or scaled down, and a major wreck involving a "DLRT" train with multiple fatalities occurred, the Secretary of Transportation would be on trial in Federal Court, all "DLRT" systems currently in operation would cease to exist and those under construction/planned would simply not happen. You are essentially asking to repeal the mandatory seatbelt law that almost (if not) every state passed in the last two decades and has been directly cited as a major contributor to the reduced number of highway fatalities.

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  4. PRogress is directly and drastically hindered by excessive safety and absurd FRA regulations. The passenger train in Calornia met FRA guidelines and 28 people where killed. The guidelines are bullshit.

    A 90mph derailment in England occurred and one person died, most likely of old age. Same thing has happened on other fast trains and nobody is hurt, their systems work, ours fail, and the FRA perpetuates our systems.

    Really though, when the FRA didn’t exist, how many train wrecks even occurred? Not very many at all. Either way, most of what the FRA does is overkill and we ALL pay the price of crappy, downtrodden, unsustainable passenger rail because of it.

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  5. "The passenger train in Calornia met FRA guidelines and 28 people where killed."

    I know there is some question as to whether the Bombardier bi-level coach (the standard passenger car for commuter rail operators in North America outside the NEC and Chicago) truly meets the FRA regs, or whether the regs are the issue.

    I will disagree with this statement, however: "when the FRA didn’t exist, how many train wrecks even occurred?" There were many wrecks that occurred simply because of poor safety measures – either in operating practice, or vehicle design. You just don’t hear about them.

    Portland has had its historical share of passenger releated collisions/derailments including deaths, including the infamous Red Electric head-on collision between Burlingame and Hillsdale; or the trolley which ran through the open draw of the old Madison Street Bridge.

    The European and Japanese countries in which high speed rail certainly has government agencies which work similar to the FRA; in fact oversight is probably stronger overseas than here in the U.S. The issue isn’t the existance of the agency, but how the agency does its work and with which methodologies. The best comparison I’ve heard is that the U.S. focuses on making sure collisions are survivable. In Europe, the focus is on advanced signal systems and segregated track to avoid collisions.

    The difference in Europe – you’ll find the DMU (they call them "railbuses") service on "freight" lines. But you won’t find big, monster locomotives with 120 cars of coal behind them…in the time I was in Germany, freight trains were short, fast, and point-to-point (from shipper to receiver). Huge classification yards generally don’t exist in Europe – you won’t find a yard like Albina, Brooklyn, Barnes, Lake, Willbridge, or Vancouver in Europe. The "yards" are primarily for storing unused passenger cars and maintaining equipment.

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  6. Point being, the FRA has been drastically detrimental to passenger rail development while it has not drastically increased its safety. Arguably it hasn’t really increased the safety of passenger rail at all.

    It has however made trains slower, heavier, and more awkward to utilize.

    That’s a simple derived fact.

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  7. We had approximately 100 years of no FRA, no real reason to have it now except to waste even more money we don’t have as a society. The only functional change, and I’m not saying this is entirely the fault of the FRA, is that we now have effectively no passenger rail service of any repute whatsoever. All that happened on the FRA’s watch. In addition costs to operate & purchase equipment has skyrocketed, often related directly to asinine and inane regulations they’ve passsed. Schedules have fallen by the wayside and mandates they should have put into place (PTC or something better) are intolerably late.

    So when the FRA could have saved lives they didn’t, instead they’ve generally just cost the country millions upon millions of dollars and assisted in stopping forward progress of passenger rail travel.

    …If there was an entity like this for software development we’d be out 2 Million high paying jobs in the order of about 1-3 months. Fortunately because there is NOT something like that America still enjoys the wealth and repute of a forward thinking and progressive software industry.

    Maybe they should check that out for a sample of how the Government should operate and interact with an industry.

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