OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Federal investigators are opening a wide-ranging investigation into one of many nation’s greatest railroads following a fiery derailment on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border final month and several other different accidents involving Norfolk Southern, together with the dying of a practice conductor Tuesday.
The Nationwide Transportation Security Board mentioned on Tuesday it should start a broad take a look at the corporate’s security tradition — the primary such investigation throughout the rail trade since 2014. The board mentioned it has despatched investigation groups to look into 5 important accidents involving Norfolk Southern since December 2021.
The company additionally urged the corporate to take quick motion to evaluate and assess its security practices.
The Federal Railroad Administration additionally introduced its personal investigation of Norfolk Southern on Tuesday. The administration will problem a public report after conducting a 60-day security evaluation, based on a launch from the U.S. Division of Transportation.
Within the launch, the railroad administration mentioned Norfolk Southern should go past the steps it introduced Monday and take actions “that match the severity of latest incidents.”
Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw pledged to carry a sequence of companywide security conferences Wednesday — one day forward of when he’s scheduled to testify in Congress at a listening to on the East Palestine, Ohio, derailment.
“Shifting ahead, we’re going to rebuild our security tradition from the bottom up,” he mentioned in a assertion. “We’re going to make investments extra in security. This isn’t who we are, it’s not acceptable, and it’ll not proceed.”
In response to the Ohio derailment, the railroad on Monday introduced plans to enhance using detectors positioned alongside railroad tracks to identify overheating bearings and different issues.
Investigators with the Nationwide Transportation Security Board mentioned the crew working the practice that derailed Feb. 3 exterior East Palestine, Ohio, acquired a warning from such a detector however couldn’t cease the practice earlier than extra than three dozen automobiles got here off the tracks and caught hearth.
Half of the city of about 5,000 individuals needed to evacuate for days when responders deliberately burned poisonous chemical substances in a number of the derailed automobiles to forestall an uncontrolled explosion, leaving residents with lingering well being considerations. Authorities officers say checks haven’t discovered harmful ranges of chemical substances within the air or water within the space.
Inside the trade, Norfolk Southern has had a powerful repute for being a secure railroad over time, mentioned Christopher Barkan, director of the Rail Transportation and Engineering Heart on the College of Illinois.
Federal Railroad Administration statistics present accidents involving Norfolk Southern is down since 2019, however the charge of accidents is up over the previous decade. The 119 derailments involving Norfolk Southern final 12 months was the bottom quantity within the final decade. Industrywide, there have been extra than 1,000 derailments final 12 months.
However strain has been mounting on the railroad within the aftermath of the East Palestine catastrophe.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg advised the nation’s freight railroads in February to instantly act to enhance security whereas regulators had been specializing in strengthening security guidelines. Buttigieg mentioned the division will maintain the railroad accountable for any security violations that contributed to the Feb. 3 crash.
President Joe Biden mentioned on Twitter after the derailment that the previous sample of railroads resisting security rules should change and that Congress ought to help the trouble to enhance security.
Despite the fact that authorities information reveals that derailments have declined in recent times, there have been nonetheless 1,049 of them final 12 months.
Whereas most don’t trigger any main issues, of the 5 accidents the Nationwide Transportation Security Board pointed to involving Norfolk Southern since the tip of 2021, three resulted within the deaths of three employees.
On Saturday, nobody was harm when a Norfolk Southern freight practice derailed close to Springfield, Ohio.
In the most recent incident Tuesday, a practice and a dump truck collided at a metal plant in Cleveland, killing the practice conductor who was standing on the surface of a automobile, authorities mentioned. The corporate mentioned the reason for that accident was not but recognized.
Eddie Corridor, president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen union that represents the employee who was killed, mentioned the dying is a reminder of the necessity for security enhancements.
“All railroad accidents are avoidable,” Corridor mentioned. “This collision underscores the necessity for important enhancements in rail security for each employees and the general public.”