The US Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has proposed a rule to establish a safety programme that would create a framework for the agency to monitor, oversee and enforce safety in the public transportation industry.

The programme will be created under FTA’s new safety oversight authority established by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21).

Based on the principles and practices of safety management systems (SMS), the proposed rule would implement FTA’s authority to inspect, audit and examine public transit agencies for safety, test their equipment, facilities, rolling stock and operations, and take appropriate enforcement actions.

"This new programme will help us ensure that transit continues to be a safe way to get around, and a safe place to work."

Enforcement could also include directing the use or withholding of federal funds and issuing directives and advisories.

US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said: "Every day, millions of Americans take public transportation to get to work, school, medical appointments, and other important destinations.

"This new programme will help us ensure that transit continues to be a safe way to get around, and a safe place to work."

The proposed rule establishes SMS as the foundation for the FTA safety programme, which focuses on organisation-wide policy and accountability, proactive hazard identification, and risk-based decision-making.

It rule also defines the contents of a national public transportation safety plan, which the FTA anticipates publishing in a separate federal register notice for public review and comment in the next several months.

The plan will include safety performance criteria for all public transportation modes, safety performance standards for transit vehicles, the definition of ‘state of good repair’, and a safety certification training programme.

FTA acting administrator Therese McMillan said: "With transit ridership at its highest levels in generations, and our nation’s transit agencies facing increased pressure to meet the demand for service, we must continue to ensure that safety remains the top priority.

"This rulemaking is a major step forward in establishing FTA’s safety regulatory framework, as all future safety-related rules, regulations and guidance will be informed by the public transportation safety programme."