Posts Tagged ‘Ronald Batory’

Court Overturns FRA Crew Size Action

February 24, 2021

A Federal Railroad Administration decision on crew staffing rules has been overturned by a federal appeals court.

The FRA had withdrawn a proposed rule requiring two-person crews but the court said that decision had the effect of authorizing nationwide one-person train crews and prohibited any contrary state regulations.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals deemed the FRA decision ruling “arbitrary and capricious” and returned the matter to the FRA for further consideration.

The FRA had introduced the two-person crew rule in 2016, but withdrew it in 2019, saying there was no evidence that train operation was safer with two crew members compared to operation with one crew member.

The states of California, Washington, and Nevada then sued the FRA and were joined by the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers-Transportation Division (SMART-TD) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

The lawsuit argued that former FRA Administrator Ron Batory failed to follow required procedures on comment and notification, and that he could not preempt state laws.

Batory Joins Corman Board of Directors

February 2, 2021

Former Federal Railroad Administration head Ronald Batory has joined the board of directors at R.J. Corman Railroad Group.

Ronald Batory

Batory has spent 46 years in the railroad industry, including serving as president of the Belt Railway of Chicago and spending 12 years as president and chief operation officer of Conrail.

In a statement, Corman President and CEO Ed Quinn described Batory’s background in the rail industry as “unparalleled.

Quinn said Corman has worked with Batory in many capacities throughout his career.

Collisions Were in Decline Before PTC Widely was Installed

January 19, 2021

The National Transportation Safety Board has for years lobbied for the implementation of positive train control as a way of reducing if not eliminating train collisions.

The agency last week celebrated the completion of PTC implementation on much of the nation’s railroad system.

All railroads that were required by federal law to have PTC had installed, tested and begun using a PTC system by the end of 2020.

However, an analysis by Trains magazine using Federal Railroad Administration data shows that even before PTC was switched on the railroad industry had made giant strides toward reducing collisions.

Collisions on railroad mainlines declined by 91 percent between 1975 and 2018. The analysis found the number of derailments attributed to a train exceeding the speed limit also declined during that period.

Data from the FRA’s Office of Safety show that in 1975 there were 244 mainline collisions, representing 41 percent of the 588 mainline collisions that occurred over the 45 years through 2020.

Mainline collisions had fallen to 100 in 1985 and 77 in 1995. There were 79 mainline collisions in 2005 but just 19 in 2015.

Preliminary data shows four mainline collisions occurred last year.

“With or without PTC, railroad operating practices have come a long way,” FRA Administrator Ronald Batory said.

 “The numbers speak for themselves. And now that we have PTC there’s further risk reduction.”

Batory said among the actions that railroads have taken in the past three decades that have made operations safer are reducing the use of train orders, improving locomotive engineer training and certification, instilling more disciplined operations, and adopting smaller crew sizes.

He expects the railroad industry to continue to become a safer place in coming years as carriers improve their PTC systems. That will include making PTC technology more comprehensive and robust.

Nonetheless, NTSB members who participated in a webcast last week told of how they have investigated numerous collisions over the years that could have been prevented by PTC.

NTSB member Jennifer Homendy said that included 154 accidents that led to 305 deaths and 6,883 injured railroad workers and passengers.

Former NTSB Chairman James Hall said it took a “tombstone mentality” to persuade Congress to adopt a law mandating PTC.

Many say the trigger event was a 2008 California collision between a Metrolink commuter train and a Union Pacific freight that left 25 dead.

PTC systems are now active on 58,000 route-miles, primarily those that handle passengers and hazardous materials.

The systems are designed to prevent train-to-train collisions, overspeed derailments, incursions into established work zones, and movements through switches left in the wrong position.

PTC Installations Race to Finish Line

November 19, 2020

In its latest report on positive train control, the Federal Railroad Administration said all railroads required to do so  by the end of the year are currently operating PTC systems in revenue service or advanced field testing.

“Full implementation of PTC is in sight, owing to everyone’s unparalleled cooperation and determination,” said FRA Administrator Ronald Batory.

Through Sept. 30 PTC was activated on all but 223 required route miles.

Federal law has set a Dec. 31 deadline for implementation of PTC systems.

The FRA said PTC is operating in advanced field testing, also known as revenue service demonstration, on 57,314 route miles or 99.6 percent of the 57,537 route miles subject to federal law.

PTC is in place on all PTC-mandated main lines owned or controlled by Class I railroads and other freight host railroads.

In the third quarter of 2020 PTC was in place on 92.3 percent of commuter railroads covered by the mandate.

Amtrak said a PTC system is now operating on all mandated main lines that the railroad owns or controls.

Interoperability of PTC systems has reached 84 percent of the 219 applicable host-tenant railroad relationships. This means that the PTC system of tenant railroads are compatible with the PTC system of the host railroad.

FRA Expects Railroads to Make PTC Deadline

November 18, 2020

Federal Railroad Administration head Ronald Batory expects all railroads to make the Dec. 31 deadline to install and implement positive train control systems.

Batory said two railroads, New Mexico Rail Runner Express and New Jersey Transit, are at risk of missing the deadline,

However, he said the two commuter railroads “continue to mature hour by hour to get to the finish line.”

“I think at 23:59 on Dec. 31 we will be at 100 percent implementation, or perhaps lacking only a few miles of track,” he said.

Despite some lingering interoperability issues, all seven Class 1 railroads are expected to make the deadline.

Interoperability refers to the ability of one railroad’s locomotives to be compatible with the PTC system on another railroad line.

Most of the 220 tenant-host relationships had achieved interoperability by mid-October.

Railroad managers say that meeting the PTC deadline is just the start of a continuing process.

“Every railroad has a signaling system, and those systems have constantly evolved. They take care and feeding, and PTC is similar,” said CSX head of transportation and PTC Debbie Bittner.

“PTC will never be static. We will always be upgrading and adding functionality.”

The Association of American Railroads has established a committee to revise and maintain electronic data interchanges pertaining to PTC.

The Colorado-based Transportation Technology Center is working to provide engineering, specification development management and other services for all railroads needing help with their PTC systems, including regional and short lines railroads.

Class I and other railroads will provide the FRA monthly reports on PTC failures and anomalies starting with in 2021.

CSX said that throughout 2021 it will focus on developing  electronic tools that improve safety and reliability.

“We can take advantage of what PTC has opened up for the rail industry. We have a lot more data now,” Bittner said. “We will work on enhancements and driving efficiencies.”

That will include, for example, using PTC to provide shippers with more information about the status of their loads, including a more accurate estimated times of arrival.

Norfolk Southern officials said they continue to work with their railroad partners and suppliers to better refine and improve interoperability.

“Every opportunity we can take to reduce human error will be a priority for us,” an NS official said.

The carrier said that during 2021 it will further develop its PTC system to enhance safety and efficiency using data collected by the system.

The FRA;s Batory said there remains a need for a standardized PTC system to be used by all railroads.

Currently there are two major PTC systems, four different platforms and seven vendors.

“We are still pursuing a path of standardization,,” he said. “It will lead to a robust system and breed less risk.”

FRA Completes Safety Office Reorganization

July 25, 2020

The Federal Railroad Administration said its Office of Railroad Safety has completed a yearlong reorganization.

Two key aspects of the reorganization were the creation of safety management teams for railroads and the realignment of safety inspectors’ reporting responsibilities, the agency said.

FRA Administrator Ronald Batory said the reorganization was the “most significant” since the agency was established.

“I believe this organization will usher in a new era in railroad safety oversight that will lead to improved safety throughout the national railroad network,” Batory said.

Batory said railroad safety improved dramatically between 2000 to 2010, but the past decades has been a time that has been mostly static.

“I don’t believe we have reached the point where safety cannot improve, but I do believe we need new ideas and a bold approach,]”he said.

The reorganization was completed on June 8.

The new SMTs will serve as the primary FRA point of contact for a Class I or group of railroads to be a partner in finding solutions or solving potential safety issues.

While the number of inspectors remains the same, the agency realigned inspectors and specialists under their respective discipline headquarters staff directors, so that each has a single technical authority to guide how regulations are enforced.

The agency also created an office to address new technologies and another to serve as a liaison to labor organizations and rail industry associations.

FRA Spurns Union Request for Emergency Order

April 17, 2020

The Federal Railroad Administration has rejected a call by two railroad unions asking the agency to issue an emergency order calling for safety protections for railroad employees during the COVID-19 pandemic

“Although FRA believes that many safety precautions included in [the unions’] petitions could constitute best practices that should be applied in the railroad industry, FRA does not believe that an emergency order is justified,” FRA Administrator Ronald Batory wrote in a letter to the unions.

In a news release, the unions accused the FRA of failing “to mandate safety protocols to protect the health of railroad workers during the national COVID-19 outbreak.”

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen along with the SMART Transportation Division has asked the FRA to issue an emergency order specific to employee protections after the agency announced it would temporarily waive some railroad safety rules during the pandemic.

FRA to Take Another Crack at Amtrak On-Time Rule

March 24, 2020

Federal regulators are taking another stab at promulgating rules to define on-time standards for Amtrak.

The Federal Railroad Administration last week suggested that the rule would set a minimum performance standard of 80 percent.

In a news release, the FRA said its proposal would give Amtrak, its passengers, service providers, the FRA and others a common tool to help objectively gauge intercity passenger rail travel.

“Eighty percent is a minimum standard,” said FRA Administrator Ronald Batory. “We expect many routes will be much more reliable. Clarity should help all parties ensure compliance.”

To develop the standard, FRA said it and Amtrak consulted with many stakeholders, including the Class I railroads that host Amtrak trains, states, labor unions, an advocacy group that represents Amtrak riders, and the U.S. Surface Transportation Board.

The rule would contain additional measurements for evaluating how well Amtrak serves the public, including financial performance and customer service metrics.

The FRA said the proposed rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register in the near future.

Public hearings, likely to be held online, will also follow a 60-day public comment period.

FRA Head Wants to Study Autonomous Track Inspection

January 11, 2020

The head of the Federal Railroad Administration wants to establish a pilot program that will be used to study autonomous track inspection.

Speaking at the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association Conference, Ronald Batory said the pilot would involve a Class 1 railroad and the data generated would be shared with the FRA.

However, he said he doesn’t expect the program to lead to ending physical track inspections by maintenance of way workers.

“It will ultimately reduce the risk and enhance  . . . safety and might require less physical inspection as far as frequency, but will still require physical inspections to confirm and fix,” Batory said.

“We’re going to find ourselves with a safer track structure where those vehicles operate, over the term that they operate, than what we had when it was strictly eye inspection.”

Batory said an autonomous track inspection vehicle might be able to discover more track defects than two workers riding in a hi-rail vehicle and visually inspecting the track.

“And we want to do the same insofar as signal and train control; we want to do it with mechanical inspections,” he said.

The FRA administrator said there is much opportunity to use technology to figure out how to maintain and operate railroads and to do so in better way than those of the past.

“That’s no disrespect to the past. It’s a new tool, and we need to embrace it and use it,” Batory said.

FRA Proposes Rule Changes for Track, Brake Standards

December 21, 2019

The Federal Railroad Administration has proposed new rules pertaining to track safety standards and its brake system safety requirements.

The agency said the proposed rules changes are designed “to promote safety innovation and reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens.”

The track safety standards rule change would allow continuous testing for rail inspections and remove an inspection-method exception for high-density commuter lines.

It would also add several recommendations by FRA’s Rail Safety Advisory Committee.

Continuous rail testing differs from the traditional stop-and-verify rail inspection process, and extends the verification period to allow rail inspection data to be analyzed off-site and field verification to take place between 24 and 84 hours vs. within the current four hours.

The brake standard changes would allow trains to go without Class I air brake testing for 24 hours, extending the requirement from four hours.

The FRA said the change “is expected to significantly reduce [the] number of brake tests performed while increasing network velocity. This allowance is already safely in place in Canada.”

The new rule also would incorporate end-of-train device waivers related to battery change out, marker lamp height and the use of helper locomotives to initiate emergency braking.

“It’s time to modernize existing regulations to permit methods of inspecting, testing and maintaining track and mechanical equipment that are demonstrably safe,” said FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory. “These updates are consistent with the performance and evidence-based standards that are already being used by many railroads.”

To view the proposed Track Safety Standards rule, see

To view the proposed Brake System Safety rule, see

Public comments on rule changes are due 60 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register.