FRA Grants Electrification Waiver For Commuter Rail Line - A First

The Federal Railroad Administration does not allow for the mixing of train types for safety reasons, which proved a key obstacle for Caltrain's plan for electrification. As a pilot project,they are allowing the line to utilize electric multiple units

Caltrain, the San Jose to San Francisco commuter rail line wants to use EMUs where each rail car receives power from overhead catenary wire, as opposed to an electric locomotive hauling the present rolling stock. However, current regulations prohibit the electric multiple units in the corridor. They got their wish.

"Although common in Europe, the smaller electric trains are illegal in the United States because federal officials have long considered them too small, poorly designed and unsafe. But after three years of tests and research, Caltrain will become the first railroad in the nation to use the technology after being granted a waiver.

Caltrain will essentially be a pilot operation for the trains...If successful, commuter railroads and planned high-speed rail networks throughout the nation would have access to cheaper, greener and faster trains.

The waiver allows all passenger trains, whether diesel or electric, to run on the same tracks. Freight locomotives can continue to operate in the wee hours while passenger trains are parked."

Caltrain is pinning its long-time survival on its electrification plan in order to greatly reduce its operating costs.

Thanks to Streetsblog

Full Story: Electric train plan granted key waiver



Irvin Dawid's picture

See Caltrain Press Release on the FRA Waiver

Caltrain Passes Key Milestone in Modernization Effort: "The Federal Railroad Administration issued a waiver of longstanding rules that prohibit what is known as “mixed traffic” – operating standard American trains and lighter rail equipment on the same tracks....Caltrain’s success in achieving the waiver provides a blueprint for high-speed rail systems around the country". The release explains some of the more technical aspects of what the waiver enables and what it requires Caltrain to do to assure safety of the line. Do note the positive implications for high speed rail as well.
Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA

Irvin Dawid's picture

Railway Age (June 1) reports on Caltrain's landmark waiver

Railway Age goes into more depth on the requirements of the waiver: "Federal Railroad Administration says it will revoke the waiver if Caltrain fails to meet various criteria in implementing its plan. Caltrain must conduct crash tests after its new equipment is built, and must construct rail bridges at several intersections, as well as install Positive Train Control"
Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA

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