The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has approved the Denton County Transportation Authority’s (DCTA) request to operate Swiss-made Stadler GTW vehicles on the on the same tracks as freight trains.

The relaxation of rules will allow lightweight low-floor vehicles to operate on rail corridors along with traditional trains and also help expand commuter-rail options for US transportation authorities.

FRA’s Rail Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) prepared a set of technical criteria and procedures in 2009, to evaluate passenger train-sets built to alternative designs that enable lighter, more fuel-efficient rail vehicles equipped with crash energy management systems to mix with customary equipment.

Stadler USA president Steve Bonina said: "Stadler continues to be hopeful that the FRA codifies the RSAC guidelines into regulatory requirements in order to open the North American Rail Network to this outstanding, safer, eco-friendly rail technology, which will help to make rail systems safer, more efficient, more reliable and less costly."

Since 2009, DCTA, Stadler and DCTA’s vehicle consultant, LTK Engineering Services, have been working closely with the FRA to get the waiver.

DCTA has also purchased 11 diesel-electric GTW 2/6 articulated rail vehicles from Stadler for a future A-train service between Denton and Carrollton.

The authority has partnered with Stadler to make modifications, which include changes to the fuel tank design, window glazing and passenger and operator seats, to the GTW vehicle to comply with required safety guidelines.

The rail cars are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and are equipped with improved air conditioning, passenger information system and video surveillance.

DCTA and Stadler are expected to start integrating the rail cars, which will have 104 seats and standing room for 96 people, into service this summer.

In May 2012, the DCTA Board of Directors had approved additional rail services for the A-train to include mid-day rail journeys from Monday to Friday.

According to DCTA, the waiver will allow the new cars to be used on the A-train and increase possible expansion options for both the A-train, as well as transportation agencies throughout across the county.