On Monday, June 4, 2012, Administrator Joseph Szabo of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in conjunction with the American Public Transportation Association Annual Rail Conference formally announced approval of DCTA’s request to operate the Stadler GTW concurrent with traditional, compliant equipment. This means that for the first time ever; light-weight/fuel efficient, eco-friendly low-floor vehicles will be permitted to operate in rail corridors concurrently with traditionally compliant vehicles. The waiver, a first of its kind, will expand commuter rail options for transportation authorities across the United States.
In 2009, the FRA’s Rail Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) prepared a set of technical criteria and procedures for evaluating passenger rail train-sets that have been built to alternative designs. The alternative designs enable lighter, more fuel-efficient rail vehicles equipped with a Crash Energy Management system to commingle with traditionally compliant equipment. The DCTA/Stadler alternative design waiver is the first comprehensive submittal that follows the RSAC Engineering Task Force (ETF) procedures for Tier I equipment. The approval of the DCTA/Stadler waiver request demonstrates that the enhanced crashworthiness and passenger protection systems inherent to DCTA’s new rail vehicles meet the latest and most stringent safety standards in the U.S.
“Stadler is excited and proud to have the opportunity of announcing this milestone and appreciates the immense joint effort conducted by DCTA and the FRA,” stated Steve Bonina, Stadler USA president. “Stadler continues to be hopeful that the FRA codifies the RSAC guidelines into regulatory requirements in order to open the North American Rail Network to this outstanding, safer, eco-friendly rail technology, which will help to make rail systems safer, more efficient, more reliable and less costly.”
Stadler, DCTA and DCTA’s vehicle consultant, LTK Engineering Services, have been working closely with the FRA to achieve this waiver since 2009. DCTA partnered with Stadler to make modifications and enhancements to the GTW to comply with the required safety guidelines. Modifications include changes to the fuel tank design, window glazing and passenger and operator seats.
“This approval is the result of unprecedented cooperation between DCTA, the FRA LTK and Stadler,” stated Jim Cline, DCTA president. “Our efforts to operate the nation’s first alternative compliant vehicle demonstrate not only our commitment to increased safety for our passengers and operators but to improving safety for the commuter rail industry. We are setting the conditions for future success for commuter rail expansion in North Texas and the conditions will allow us to advance the integration of these vehicles onto our system.”
DCTA purchased 11 diesel-electric GTW 2/6 articulated rail vehicles from Stadler. The vehicles are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and incorporate enhanced air conditioning, passenger information system, video surveillance and numerous FRA compliant elements. The spacious interior has room for wheelchairs, strollers and bicycles. There are 104 seats and standing room for 96 persons in every vehicle along with bright compartments, large windows and comfortable seating. DCTA and Stadler will begin integrating the cars into service this summer.