The North County Transit District (NCTD) is teaming up with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to work with Bombardier Transportation USA Inc. and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) to bring added safety through the Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS) program.
The C3RS is designed to improve railroad safety by collecting and analyzing reports which describe unsafe conditions or events in the railroad industry. Staff and contractors can report safety issues or “close calls” voluntarily and confidentially. A close call is any condition or event that may have the potential for more serious safety consequences such as a blue flag not removed after releasing railway construction equipment or failing to provide proper track protection during track maintenance.
By analyzing these events, potential life-saving information can be obtained to help prevent more serious incidents in the future.
Established in 1975 by California Senate Bill No. 802 to plan, construct, and operate public transit in North San Diego County, NCTD provides about 10.6 million passenger trips per year primarily in North San Diego County. Services include BREEZE bus, SPRINTER hybrid rail, COASTER commuter trains, FLEX demand response, and LIFT ADA paratransit service.
NASA took the lead on this program after developing and managing the highly successful Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) which began in 1976. ASRS has received over 1.2 million confidential reports from the aviation community resulting in numerous contributions to aviation safety.
As an independent and respected research organization that does not have regulatory or enforcement interests, NASA serves as an objective and trustworthy recipient of reports submitted by railroad professionals, according to NCTD.
By identifying close calls on or around the railroad tracks, participating agencies can identify why close calls may occur, recommend and implement corrective actions, and evaluate the effectiveness of any such action that was implemented.
The C3RS is in addition and complementary to the many existing safety programs that NCTD currently has in place such as Positive Train Control which is designed to prevent train-to-train collisions, derailments caused by excessive train speed, train movements through misaligned track switches and unauthorized train entry into work zones.
“Safety at NCTD is our top priority,” said NCTD Executive Director Matthew Tucker. “Having the opportunity to partner with a highly successful organization such as NASA to enhance our safety protocols was an easy decision for NCTD.”
Confidentiality is a key element of the program. Railroad personnel can submit reports when they are involved in or observe an incident or situation in which railroad safety might be compromised. All report submissions are voluntary. Reports sent to C3RS are held in strict confidence, and individuals who report are provided waivers from carrier discipline and FRA enforcement of qualifying events.
“Because of NASA’s strict confidentiality policy for these reports, it’s more likely that we’ll get accurate details about the incident,” said Eric Roe, NCTD’s chief operations officer of rail. “Those details can lead to new safety measures that make the tracks safer for everyone on and around the rails.”
The C3RS includes partners Bombardier Transportation and SMART. Bombardier Transportation is NCTD’s rail operations and maintenance contractor. SMART is the union that represents the conductors and engineers on NCTD’s San Diego Subdivision.