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Not for Sale

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Shared-Track: Laying the Foundation--Policy and Strategy 23 The Safety Case To advance the business case, the safety stakeholders must be satisfied. The business case iden- tifies stakeholders with the most significant impacts on a project and then puts in place a win- win-win scenario. Simultaneously planners are guiding the resolution of various institutional, operational and technical issues. However, safety regulators can be the "deal breakers" for a planned project. Even if the freight operator, transit operator, and state and local interest groups and authorities are "on-board" and the purchase, liability, and track access agreements are com- pleted, progress is not guaranteed. The FRA must be convinced that the project fulfills its safety requirements. Any shared-track project will require an FRA Waiver Petition, and invite the scrutiny of both the FRA and State Safety Oversight Organization. FRA--Obtaining a Federal Waiver Typically, a project involving concurrent operation of light passenger rail cars and conventional railroad trains triggers the need for a federal waiver due to the presence of cars that do not conform to full federal crashworthiness standards for passenger-carrying equipment. A waiver petition details specific conditions that render federal requirements inapplicable and describes alternate means of providing equivalent safety. The information in a waiver application typically includes: Description of the proposed shared-track operation on the general system of railroads; Proposed light passenger rail car characteristics; Proposed application of alternate technologies for signals, communications, train control, and other elements of the infrastructure; Required deviation from federal requirements for vehicle design, train control system, oper- ating rules, practices, documentation, training, and maintenance procedures; and Explanation why the deviations do not compromise the level of safety, and how equivalent safety is achieved. In pursuing a waiver, the agency examines each regulation and compares it to project design to ascertain the extent of compliance. The FRA will review plans and documents, inspect facili- ties, and interview technical, operating, and management staff as part of the approval process. All project elements that deviate from the current regulations must be addressed. If the FRA Office of Safety is satisfied, then a conditional waiver is granted, allowing operation of the pro- posed system. Approval is likely to be subject to specified terms and conditions, and is granted for a fixed term. There are two levels of federal involvement. The FRA Office of Safety headquarters is in Wash- ington, D.C., where the Safety Board convenes with respect to waiver petitions. The second is regional FRA offices, staffed by local experts and specialist who meet directly with project par- ticipants (designers, operators, agency managers), to review plans, and inspect facilities. Their reports are forwarded to the FRA Office of Safety and influence the Safety Board's review. Since the FRA plays such a dominant role in the project's implementation, initiators are encouraged to engage the agency early in the planning stage and keep local and headquarters rep- resentatives apprised of plans, developments or changes. It is advisable to maintain a dialogue between train control system designers and appropriate Federal officials from concept and design throughout testing and startup. Role of the Designated State Safety Organization Rail transit projects generally come under the jurisdiction of the state agency responsible for State Safety Oversight (SSO). The state is ultimately responsible for ensuring the safety of the rail