The FRA (Federal Railway Administration) has issued new Proposed Rules for “High-Speed and High Cant Deficiency Operations”.
In layman’s terms, that means how fast trains are permitted to travel around curves. Obviously, faster is better, especially as the Administration has announced an ambitious $50 billion plan for high-speed rail.
The FRA has long been known for obstructing high-speed rail in the US, so it is no surprise that the new rules generally retain the antiquated regulations. Don’t expect Amtrak to be swapping its museum rolling stock for Pendolinos or Talgos anytime soon.
In the case of the Acela, the new rules would shave a measly 2 minutes over its entire run. That is well below 30 minutes that might be possible with modern tilting trains.
It is also worth discussing the absurd methodology used to validate the “new and improved” safety regulations. The FRA ran a variety of diesel-hauled commuter trains, and an Amtrak Acela Express trainsets. In terms of suspension and performance characters, these trains are quite primitive. No Pendolino or DB Class 612 took part in the tests. It would be like using a Model-T to devise highway safety rules.
In other words, this is the FRA’s usual lowest-common-denominator approach to regulation.