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While presenting to short line and regional railroad executives at Norfolk Southern’s recent short line marketing meeting in Norfolk, CEO James A. Squires said there are three things that have to happen before the rail industry can “expect” (strong word) one-person crews:
At this point in time, I believe Squires has made what could be considered to be a “logical” assessment of the facts and circumstances, but …
With respect to the technology, PTC:
Assuming that not all trackage owned or operated-over by NS, or any other railroad, will be PTC-equipped, one-person train crews should be limited to routes that are fully equipped and compliant—one would assume. This raises some important questions: What if PTC fails on a single train or, worse yet, on a whole corridor? Do all one-person train operations in the corridor come to a stop? Should that be left to a railroad to decide, or should there be regulations covering such situations?
Assuming, again, that once the technology is in place and deemed by the railroad to be fully operational, one would assume that the FRA would have to certify that all elements of the technology are fully functional, the design requirements are met and that the systems fulfill all safety requirements. Would it not be prudent to require a test period to determine if the technology functions as promised and fulfills all safety expectations and requirements?
With respect to regulations:
Clearly, the most immediate regulatory threat to rail industry efforts to transition to one-person train crews was the two-person-minimum NPRM. But let’s not forget that the clock is running on the current Administration in Washington, D.C. The next administration may have entirely different views and actions on this and many other issues that affect railroads.
This article first appeared on www.railwayage.com
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