Subscribe to FOSA News

Fiber Optic Sensing Association Urges Rail Safety Technology Testing


Fiber Optic Sensing Association
Contact: Mark Uncapher

Fiber Optic Sensing Association Urges Rail Safety Technology Testing
New Technologies Can Make Rail Transportation Safer, Group Tells House Subcommittee 

WASHINGTON DC - FEBRUARY 15, 2018 - The Fiber Optic Sensing Association (FOSA), the nation’s premier trade association dedicated to fiber optic sensing, urged a House subcommittee today to provide greater funding to the Federal Railroad Administration for testing of advanced technologies to improve U.S. rail safety.

In a letter to the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, FOSA noted its strong support for the collaborative public-private partnership of Federal Railroad Administration’s Transportation Technology Center and the Transportation Technology Center, Inc.  (TTCI).  FOSA recommended that future development and testing activity by the TTCI address:

  • optimization of track-side security
  • increasing worker safety
  • reducing the risk of derailments due to rail defects
  • development of optimal installation techniques
  • leveraging of existing fiber networks near railways (including addressing barriers to using non-rail road owned fiber optic cable along rail rights-of-way)
  • cost benefit analysis to evaluate alternative safety technologies

 According to FOSA Director Mark Uncapher, these initiatives can be expedited with increased federal funding for the Federal Railroad Administration for purposes of TTCI’s testing the use of distributed fiber optic sensing in various terrains and geographic settings for both freight and passenger rail. Coordination and funding from other interested agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security, can additionally advance the use of technologies to protect the security of critical infrastructure.

“Fiber optic sensing is currently supporting railroads around the world by reducing delays, cutting costs and improving safety,” Uncapher said.  “Often rail companies find that they can utilize previously installed, track-side fiber optic communications cables for this purpose.  They can connect a distributed fiber optic sensing system and use a single optical fiber within these cables to obtain thousands of sensing points per mile.  As a result, rail operators can optimize operations, prevent railway cable theft, detect landslides and identify faulty trains and tracks.  And most importantly, fiber optic sensing can serve as an early warning system to the defects that cause derailments.”

A fiber optic sensing system is comprised of optical fiber cable, a detection system and software. The glass fiber is the sensor, sensitive over its entire length. A laser pulse interrogates the fiber and a detector measures reflections from every pulse. Based on the unique properties inherent to the fiber and the scattering of light, software determines whether an incident (acoustic, temperature or strain) is occurring and alerts operators to the problem, the severity of the problem, and the exact location.

FOSA’s letter was addressed to subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Ranking Member Michael Capuano (D-MA) ahead of the panel’s hearing on Positive Train Control implementation in the United States.

In addition to its recommendation for additional funding to the Federal Railroad Administration, FOSA noted its support more broadly for infrastructure spending across transportation modes, including the so-called “Dig Once” legislation requiring federally-funded construction projects on federal roads to include the installation of plastic pipes for fiber optic cables, eliminating the need to dig up roads to deploy such cables in the future.  The “Dig Once” legislation is sponsored by Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and David McKinley (R-WV).


FOSA is a non-profit organization created in Washington DC in 2017 with the mission of educating industry, government and the public on the benefits of fiber optic sensing. Through webinars, videos, white papers, public presentations and public policy advocacy, the organization provides information on the use of fiber optic sensing to secure critical facilities, enhance public safety and protect the environment.

FOSA Members include Adelos, AFL, AP Sensing, Asymmetric Technologies, Corning, Ditch Witch, Dura-Line, Fotech Solutions, Frauscher Sensor Technology USA Inc., LIOS Technology, OFS, Omnisens, OptaSense, OZ Optics, and Prysmian. For further information, please visit the FOSA website.

Recent Stories
Fiber Optic Sensing Association Commends Proposed LIFT Act Legislation for including Smart Infrastructure Technology Provisions

Fiber Optic Sensing Association Announces Mid-Year Meetings in Conjunction with University of Cambridge Smart Infrastructure Conference

FOSA Joins Leading Technology Organizations in Urging the Inclusion of “Smart Technology” in Infrastructure Legislation