SEATTLE (Reuters) – The investigative arm of the U.S. Congress is launching a probe into the safety of increasingly long freight trains being operated by CSX Corp , Union Pacific Corp and other major U.S. railroads to boost profitability, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) said.
Train length is currently unregulated. Any push to add rules would likely face stiff industry opposition because railroads use longer trains to boost margins through the better use of fuel, locomotive power, and rail cars without having to add extra crew.
Addition - GAO - Study - Safety - Regulator
In addition to the GAO study, safety regulator the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has beefed up its presence at CSX rail yards, according to CSX employees and SMART Union Chairman Dale Barnett, citing conversations with FRA inspectors.
FRA spokesman Marc Willis declined to characterize concerns over CSX train length but said any appearance of increased inspections is due partly to safety complaints and a spike in railroad accidents or incidents.
Months - Accidents - Trains - Investigation - NTSB
“In recent months, there have been accidents involving long trains which are currently under investigation by the NTSB and the FRA,” Willis said.
The GAO will launch its study on safety and other impacts of longer trains in February, GAO spokesman Chuck Young told Reuters on Tuesday. The action was prompted by a Nov. 7 letter, seen by Reuters, from U.S. Representatives Peter DeFazio and Michael Capuano, both Democratic members of the House Transportation Committee.
DeFazio - Office - Complaints - Safety - Traffic
DeFazio said his office has received complaints over safety and traffic jams at rail crossings.
CSX, the No.3 U.S. railroad by revenue, told investors in October its freight trains have increased more than 400 feet to 6,833 feet (2.08 km) on average since March, when newly appointed Chief Executive Officer Hunter Harrison launched his plan to boost profits and streamline operations.
CSX - US - Norfolk - Southern - Corp
CSX’s eastern U.S. rival Norfolk Southern Corp’s trains average longer than 5,500 feet, a year-to-date...
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