02.05.08

With CSX's String Of Accidents Continuing Into The New Year, Schumer To Meet Face-To-Face With Company's CEO To Press Him To Acquire New Technology That Reduces Derailments

In January, CSX's Egregious Pattern of Accidents Continued when Nearly 10 Cars Jumped the Track in Massive, Multi-Car CSX Derailment in Canastota Schumer Reveals that Despite the Existence of Technology that Detects Cracks and Infrastructure Problems with Train Tracks, CSX has Dragged Its Feet in Acquiring New Inspection SystemSenator to Meet with CSX CEO, Push him to Immediately Acquire Technology and Invest in Safeguards to Reduce Accidents and Derailments

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that he will meet this week with Michael Ward, CEO of CSX, to personally demand that the rail company immediately invest in available, cutting edge infrastructure technology that could significantly reduce the risk of crashes and derailments. Schumer pointed to last month's CSX derailment in Canastota as the latest in a string of egregious accidents, derailments and fatal CSXinvolved crashes in New York and beyond, over the past eighteen months.

 

Schumer set up Thursday's meeting to ratchetup pressure on the rail company to invest adequate money to promptly implement safeguards and upgrade decrepit tracks. Schumer also pledged to pressure CSX to acquire readily available infrastructure technology, developed by the Federal Rail Administration (FRA), that identifies cracks and problems with train tracks, known as the Photo Joint Bar Inspection System. Although the new technology has already been implemented by other railroads in the country, CSX has yet to acquire the inspection system for use on their track.  Track problems remain one of the highest causes of train derailments, second only to human error.  

 

"CSX's track record in New York State continues to be appalling," said Senator Schumer. "Despite being fined for an egregious pattern of crashes and derailments, the company has failed to acquire readily available technology that is proven to reduce crashes and keep communities safe - by detecting track problems that would go otherwise unnoticed to the human inspector. In our meeting on Thursday I will make it abundantly clear that we expect immediate action and results that will reverse this alarming trend of derailments and accidents."

 

The Photo Joint Bar Inspection system, developed by the FRA and a private sector partner, is designed to detect problems with the joint bars located throughout the railroad track.  Photos of the track are taken using high speed cameras.  These photos are then analyzed by a computer which can read the pictures and detect joint bar cracks.  Using this technology, the computers are capable of detecting far more infrastructure problems than a human inspector would notice with the naked eye.  New York State's rail system contains a significant portion of jointed track where joint bar problems cause a high risk for derailment.  Following human error, track problems are the highest cause of crashes and accidents, including the CSX derailment that occurred earlier this month in Canastota, NY. 

 

In the wake the derailment in Canastota, Schumer demanded that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) immediately initiate a thorough investigation into the accident. The derailment was only five miles from Oneida, where a massive CSX chemical freight train derailed last March, igniting four liquid propane tanks, forcing the shutdown of schools and roads and the evacuation of hundreds of residents in surrounding communities.

 

March's Oneida accident was just one in a series of accidents, derailments, and fatal crashes that CSX has been involved in across upstate New York. Last January, thirteen cars on a CSX train left the tracks in the village of East Rochester. No one was injured, but at least two motorists were nearly hit by falling trailers that were dislodged from their train cars. That same month, 20,000 gallons of methanol caught fire at the CSX Selkirk rail yard and in December 2006, a CSX train carrying cans of mixed vegetables derailed on an overpass in Cheektowaga, leaving one boxcar teetering on the edge of a railroad bridge and sending a second onto the road below.

 

Schumer pointed to CSX's checkered past in Rochester with the major railroad conglomerate involved in several major accidents, crashes, and derailments all in the Rochester area. In 2001 a CSX train crashed in Rochester, derailing 23 cars, three of which spilled thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals into the Genesee River. However, this accident could have been far more tragic had the chemicals spilled in to a more crowded community area.

 

In response to the slew of accidents sweeping across upstate New York and other parts of the country, the FRA initiated an investigation of CSX in January 2007.  The results, which were released earlier this month, revealed 3,518 safety defects, including 199 serious violations, in CSX's 23state rail operations. The railroad paid only $350,000 in fines for federal rail safety violations stemming from the investigation, and today Schumer pointed to the derailment in Canastota as evidence that the company has yet to make a commitment to longterm investments in infrastructure, technology, and training, to strengthen its performance and safety.   

 

In Washington, the full senate is poised to consider the Railroad Safety Enhancement Act of 2007, a bill of which Schumer is an original sponsor. This bill is designed to stiffen the penalties for negligent railroad companies and require the broader use of modern technology to protect the public from more fatal crossing and hazardous materials accidents.  Furthermore, the legislation aims to establish new requirements for investigations, inspections and the use of new safety technology. 

 

Schumer will meet with Michael Ward, CEO of CSX this Thursday.

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