Center Of Railroad Safety-Critical Excellence Provides Safety Assessment
Support For Launch Of New Performance-Based Standards
December 3, 2002--
Ted Giras is working with the Federal Railroad Administration,
the Association of American Railroads and the nation’s railroad
executives to support the launch of new performance-based safety
standards for the U.S. railroad industry. The new standards include
the regulatory, processor-based, safety-enforcement standard to
be issued later this year.
high-profile train accidents in the mid-1990s led the National Transportation
Safety Board to encourage the FRA to improve train safety. So a
few years ago, the country’s century-old system of prescriptive
safety standards was transformed into what regulators hope will
be a safer and more effective performance-based system. The new
system is based on safety standards that should encourage the development
of innovative train-control systems.
the new system, equipment manufacturers and railroad operators will
no longer have to meet the minimum requirements the FRA used to
enforce. Instead, they will have to calculate the risk posed by
their products and services. A manufacturer who wants to sell an
innovative, new train-control system will have to demonstrate to
the FRA that it offers a lower level of risk – in terms of
the cost to society per million train miles traveled – than
the system currently in use, said Giras, director of the University
of Virginia’s Center of Railroad Safety-Critical Excellence.
the design for an assessment of the risk of equipment failure and
its potential cost to society was not your average math problem.
Instead, using a sophisticated Monte Carlo simulation of a specific
train line, researchers on Giras’ team developed a process
– an Axiomatic Safety-Critical Process, dubbed ASCAP –
to assess risk.
this fall, Giras and his team had secured research contracts worth
more than $8 million to support their work – designing the
methodologies needed for safety assessment, as well as creating
software toolsets and training programs to support the new performance-based
initial grant from the FRA last year allowed Giras to establish
the Center of Railroad Safety-Critical Excellence at U.Va. and create
an industry advisory board in collaboration with the Association
of American Railroads. It also will enable the center to create
a related, Web-based set of software tools – a Design for
Safety Assessment Web-based Toolset for Railroad Safety-Critical
Systems – and provide industry training.
has developed the methodology and tools to perform sophisticated
designs for safety assessments that have broad applications,”
Giras said. “What we do goes well beyond research. We produce
methodologies, Web-based tools and training programs that set the
industry standards. Our goal is to be the global leader in this
and his permanent research staff – in electrical, computer,
civil and systems engineering and cognitive psychology – are
pursuing several projects linked to train safety. In addition to
the initial grant from the FRA, the center has received a grant
from Lockheed Martin Corp. to study the safety of the Illinois Department
of Transportation’s train-control system between Chicago and
center also has received a five-year grant from the New York City
Transit Authority to provide a design for the safety assessment
of a new train control system – including fault injection
testing of the safety computer hardware and software – planned
for Brooklyn’s Canarsie line and developed by Siemens MARTRA,
which is based in France.
Maglev project involves a high-speed Maglev train, which is elevated
and directed along a guide-way by electro-magnets. If a $1 billion
proposal pending in Congress passes, the FRA would choose between
Pittsburgh and Baltimore early next year as the test site for a
45-mile-long, 250 mph suburb-to-city commuter train line. The U.Va.
center has been tapped to do the safety assessment portion of the
Pittsburgh project. A cluster, parallel-processing computer, funded
by Maglev Inc. of Pittsburgh, will enable the center to develop
the Web-based software for the FRA project as well as facilitate
the Maglev project, Giras said.
also is looking to extend the reach of his center overseas. The
U.Va. center has cooperated with Germany’s University of Dresden
and the Technical University of Brunsweigh since 1999.
summer, Giras traveled to China and next month he expects to host
faculty members from Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Together they
plan to explore opportunities for exchanges and research collaborations,
such as the establishment of a rail safety-critical center in China
to support performance-based safety standards in Asia for Maglev
and high-speed rail and transit railways.
goal is to create methodologies, tools and training programs that
can be used not only by the railroad industry, but also by other
vital industries, such as power generation and aerospace, in the
U.S. and around the world,” Giras said.
Charlotte Crystal, (434) 924-6858