US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has asked Congress to pass a new transit safety bill that will establish and enforce minimum federal safety standards for rail transit systems.

The Public Transportation Safety Program Act of 2009 also proposes to authorise the Secretary to allow states to receive federal transit assistance for staff and train state oversight personnel to enforce new federal regulations.

Asking the Committee to consider the bill “seriously and promptly”, Secretary LaHood said the move will ensure a standard level of safety across all systems.

“More than 14 million passengers use our rail transit systems every weekday. Yet the responsibility to guarantee their safety is left to a patchwork of 27 state agencies with inconsistent standards, inadequate powers and insufficient staffing,” LaHood said.

The government has also formed a Transit Rail Advisory Committee on Safety to help guide the rail transit safety regulations.