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Vehicle track interaction safety standards
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Filetype[PDF-2.89 MB]

  • Alternative Title:
    Proceedings of the Joint Rail Conference, April 2-4, 2014, Colorado Springs, CO.
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  • Abstract:
    Vehicle/Track Interaction (VTI) Safety Standards aim to

    reduce the risk of derailments and other accidents attributable

    to the dynamic interaction between moving vehicles and the

    track over which they operate. On March 13, 2013, the Federal

    Railroad Administration (FRA) published a final rule titled

    “Vehicle/Track Interaction Safety Standards; High-Speed and

    High Cant Deficiency Operations” which amended the Track

    Safety Standards (49 CFR Part213) and the Passenger

    Equipment Safety Standards (49 CFR Part 238) in order to

    promote VTI safety under a variety of conditions at speeds up

    to 220 mph. Among its main accomplishments, the final rule

    revises standards for track geometry and enhances qualification

    procedures for demonstrating vehicle trackworthiness to take

    advantage of computer modeling.

    The Track Safety Standards provide safety limits for

    maximum allowable track geometry variations for all nine FRA

    Track Classes — i.e., safety “minimums.” These limits serve to

    identify conditions that require immediate attention because

    they may pose or create a potential safety hazard. While these

    conditions are generally infrequent, they define the worst

    conditions that can exist before a vehicle is required to slow

    down. To promote the safe interaction of rail vehicles with the

    track over which they operate (i.e. wheels stay on track, and

    vehicle dynamics do not overload the track structure, vehicle

    itself, or cause injury to passengers), these conditions must be

    considered in the design of suspension systems. In particular,

    rail vehicle suspensions must be designed to control the

    dynamic response such that wheel/rail forces and vehicle

    accelerations remain within prescribed thresholds (VTI safety

    limits) when traversing these more demanding track geometry

    conditions at all allowable speeds associated with at particular

    track class.

    To help understand the differences in performance

    requirements (design constraints) being placed on the design of

    passenger equipment suspensions throughout the world,

    comparisons have been made between FRA safety standards

    and similar standards used internationally (Europe, Japan, and

    China) in terms of both allowable track geometry deviations

    and the criteria that define acceptable vehicle performance

    (VTI safety limits). While the various factors that have

    influenced the development of each of the standards are not

    readily available or fully understood at this time (e.g.,

    economic considerations, provide safety for unique operating

    conditions, promote interoperability by providing a railway

    infrastructure that supports a wide variety of rail vehicle types,

    etc.), this comparative study helps to explain in part why, in

    certain circumstances, equipment that has been designed for

    operation in other parts of the world has performed poorly, and

    in some cases had derailment problems when imported to the

    U.S. Furthermore, for specific equipment that is not

    specifically designed for operation in the U.S., it helps to

    identify areas that may need to be addressed with other

    appropriate action(s) to mitigate potential safety concerns, such

    as by ensuring that the track over which the equipment is

    operating is maintained to standards appropriate for the specific

    equipment type, or by placing operational restrictions on the

    equipment, or both.

    In addition to these comparisons, an overview of the new

    FRA qualification procedures which are used for demonstrating

    vehicle trackworthiness is provided in this paper. These

    procedures, which include use of simulations to demonstrate

    dynamic performance, are intended to give guidance to vehicle

    designers and provide a more comprehensive tool for safety

    assessment and verification of the suitability of a particular

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