FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 20, 2006
Schumer Urges Norfolk Southern To Slow Down Trains Traveling Through Elmira
A Recent Norfolk Southern Decision Would Increase Freight Rail Speeds From 30 to 50 MPH In The Elmira Community – Raising Risks of Accidents
Freight Trains Through Elmira Can Contain Hazardous Materials That Could Pose Safety Risks At Higher Speeds
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged Norfolk Southern to slow down freight trains traveling through the Elmira community. Currently, trains travel at 30 miles per hour, but a recent decision by Norfolk Southern would increase the freight rail speed to 50 miles per hour. The community is concerned that the increase in speed and the hazardous materials that some of the trains contain could pose safety risks in Elmira.
“Accidents and deaths from collision with freight trains have plagued many upstate communities,” Schumer said. “Obviously increasing the speed these trains travel will increase the risk of accidents. We must make sure the freight trains traveling through Elmira are as safe as possible. Also, local leaders are worried about hazardous materials going so fast through the community. I am asking Norfolk Southern to reconsider this plan and to address the safety concerns of the city officials.”
Norfolk Southern operates freight-only routes through the Elmira community, home to more than 30,000 New Yorkers. The railroad runs an elevated route through Elmira, and sometimes carries hazardous materials. Norfolk Southern recently announced that it will increase the speed of its trains traveling through Elmira, from 30 miles per hour to 50 miles per hour, in order to remain competitive. However, city officials have expressed concern about the possible risks associated with these higher speeds to rail cars carrying hazardous waste through Elmira.
In a personal letter to Charles W. Moorman, Chairman, President and CEO of Norfolk Southern Corporation, Schumer wrote, “The community has significant safety concerns regarding this plan. I ask that you send a representative to Elmira to meet with city officials, hear their concerns regarding freight train speed and work with community leaders to find an equitable solution to this situation.”
In 2001, a CSX train crashed in Rochester, derailing 23 cars, three of which spilled thousands of toxic chemicals into the Genesee River. However, this accident could have been far more tragic had the chemicals spilled in to a neighborhood or a crowded community area. In 2004, a CSX freight train derailed in Rockland County, resulting in four cars spilling nearly 200 tons of silicon metal. Last year, a CSX train traveling through the Capital Region went through the gates and ran into a car.
Schumer is the author of The Rail Crossing and Hazardous Materials Transport Act which would set tougher minimum and maximum fines for fatal accidents and establishes new requirements for investigations, inspections and the use of new safety technology. The legislation aims to crack down on negligent railroad companies and require the broader use of modern technology to protect the public from more fatal crossing and hazardous materials accidents.