Will visual inspection of track diminish over time? CN and CSX want to find out

Written by David C. Lester, Managing Editor
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Canadian National’s autonomous track inspection equipment.
Canadian National

Two notices in the Federal Register last week announce that Canadian National and CSX both petitioned the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in July for the extension of previous approval that allows both railroads to temporarily suspend some visual track inspections.

This will provide an opportunity for both railroads to further test the effectiveness of automated track inspection technologies. Below are the two public announcements:

Canadian National

This document provides the public notice that on July 23, 2021, Canadian National Railway (CN) petitioned the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to transition from phase 2 to phase 3 of a previously approved Test Program and associated temporary suspension of some visual track inspections. The Test Program is designed to test track inspection technologies (i.e., an autonomous track geometry measurement system) and new operational approaches to track inspections (i.e., combinations of autonomous inspection and traditional visual inspections).

CN began the Test Program on April 19, 2020. On December 6, 2020, CN transitioned from phase 1 to phase 2. Subsequently, CN requested, and FRA approved, an extension of the Test Program until February 19, 2022.

CSX

This document provides the public notice that on July 27, 2021, CSX Transportation (CSX) petitioned the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to extend an existing temporary suspension of some visual track inspections to allow for a continuation of a previously approved Test Program designed to test track inspection technologies (i.e., an autonomous track geometry measurement system) and new operational approaches to track inspections (i.e., combinations of autonomous inspection and traditional visual inspections).

CSX began the Test Program on March 16, 2020, and it is currently set to expire on September 15, 2021.

CSX is requesting to extend the Test Program until April 1, 2022. CSX states that the Test Program has taken longer than anticipated due to delays automating CSX’s data analysis and reporting as well as complications from the COVID-19 pandemic. In support of its request, CSX states that it will continue to comply with all other conditions and requirements of FRA’s March 3, 2020, approval letter.

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