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CSX addresses safety concerns in wake of accident

March 15, 2013
Photo courtesy of CSX Corp.

Photo courtesy of CSX Corp.

By Carley Dangona


WEST SPRINGFIELD — CSX officials addressed safety concerns in response to the Feb. 21 derailment of two tankers.

On Feb. 21, two tankers derailed on the U.S. Route 5 Bridge caused by a section of damaged railway line. One tanker was empty and the other was carrying butyraldehyde that is a highly flammable, colorless and odorless chemical, according to news reports.

Rob Kulat, a representative from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), stated that the incident report states there were no release of the hazmat and no injuries. The ultimate goal of FRA is to have no hazmat incidents. Its main safety concern with the transportation of hazardous is to prevent spills or leaks near densely populated areas and sensitive environmental habitats. It is the responsibility of each rail company to ensure its track satisfies FRA track safety regulations.

FRA standards require the Class 1 designated CSX railway to adhere to a minimum track inspection frequency of its mainline and sidings "weekly, or twice weekly if the track carries passenger trains or more than 10 million gross tons of traffic during the preceding year."

Robert Sullivan, a CSX representative told Reminder Publications, "CSX places the highest emphasis on safety for the communities where it operates, its employees and its customers. CSX's main tracks are inspected visually at least twice a week, on non-consecutive days. The track is also expected several times a year by sophisticated equipment that checks the alignment, stability and geometry of the track and that can examine the rail for internal defects not visible to the eye. Locomotives and rail cars are inspected before every trip and detectors along CSX's right of way can monitor axle and wheel temperatures to alert crews to potential issues while the train is enroute."

He continued, "The inspections are designed to help prevent problems. CSX personnel place great importance on safety, with regular briefings and training sessions. The company also provides a wide variety of training for emergency responders, ranging from computer-based courses to hands-on drills on railroad equipment. Such training has been provided to the first responders in Springfield and West Springfield and to several Massachusetts Hazardous Materials Response Teams."

The CSX website states, "CSX is pleased to report a 99.99 percent industry success rate in the safe handling of hazardous materials. In fact, for every billion ton-miles of hazardous materials transported, rail has 16 times fewer accidents than trucks. Maintenance of the railroad infrastructure is essential for reaching zero accidents and injuries. To support those efforts, about 25 percent of the employee population, or approximately 8,200 workers, are dedicated solely to improving our 21,000 miles of track, signals and grade crossings. Approximately 500 of those employees are dedicated to track inspection. All told, the company spends more than $1 billion annually on improving and maintaining track, bridges, signal systems, and other infrastructure."

According to a report from FRA, there were six accidents/incidents in Hampden County in 2012. None of the occurrences were fatal. Two of the incidents were related to rail crossings. FRA defines a highway rail incident as "any impact between a rail and a highway user at a crossing site, regardless of severity. It includes motor vehicles and other highway, roadway and sidewalk users at both public and private crossings."

The remaining four incidents were classified as "other," with three of them related to employees working on the job. FRA defines these types of incidents as "events other than train accidents or crossing incidents that cause a death or nonfatal condition to any person. Other events include such activities as getting on or off equipment, doing maintenance work, throwing switches, setting handbrakes, stumbling, tripping, etc."

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