By Randy Appleton, Virginia Railroad Accident Attorney
A new report issued by the Government Accountability Office this week states that Congress should allow more time for freight and passenger trains to install new technology that could prevent deadly train derailings, such as the Amtrak mishap last May that killed eight people.
Congress established a Dec. 31 deadline for rail companies to install new crash prevention technology, which is known as positive train control. This technology was developed in 2008, after a train accident in California that killed 25 people.
The new GAO report found that most railroads will not meet the end of the year deadline. It noted that there have been delays in the installation of the systems. For example, the technology is still being developed and there are only a few suppliers. Also, the federal government has added to the delays. One reason is that railroads had to cease construction on railroad tracks with radio poles because there had been no environmental evaluation process.
The report further noted that the Federal Railroad Administration did not provide enough oversight. It took the FRA seven months to review the initial safety plan that was turned in from a railroad.
Railroads that do not have positive train control could have federal fines and other punishments if they do not have the new technology by the end of the year.
Our railroad injury law firm in Virginia applauds the efforts to improve train safety across the country with the installation of positive train control technology. It is likely that if that technology had been on board the Amtrak train last May, the train could have been slowed down enough automatically to avoid tragedy.
Anyone who has suffered a serious injury from a train derailment usually benefits from speaking to a personal injury attorney. We had a $60 million derailment settlement a few years ago after a train derailed and severely injured a man in his workplace.
By Richard Shapiro, Virginia Railroad Accident Attorney
A section of railroad track that was owned by CSX in Lynchburg, Virginia (VA) was set to be replaced – the day after a crude oil trail derailed and broke out in flames.
The National Transportation Safety Board issued this report in late August into the derailment, which occurred on April 30, 2014. The Lynchburg oil train derailment required the evacuation of hundreds of people from downtown.
The NTSB still has not determined the precise cause of the wreck, but should by the end of 2015.
NTSB documents state that the derailment happened at a break point in the track, which means that the rail section was cracked or severed. The break was only a few inches from a repair that was made in January 2014.
The day before the oil train derailed, an inspection of the track section showed there was an internal flaw in that same rail piece. So, CSX planned to replace a 40 foot section of the rail, which was going to be installed on May 1, 2014.
The derailment is one of about nine oil train derailments that have happened in North America since 2013. The biggest and most tragic was the derailment in Lac Megantic, Quebec in July 2013 that killed 47 people.
In Lynchburg, 17 oil tank cars derailed, with three plunging into the James River and one caught on fire.
Our Virginia railroad accident law office has extensive experience in train accidents and derailments, as well as railroad crossing accidents that were due to train engineer or railroad company negligence. These often preventable mishaps can lead to injury and loss of life, although we are glad the Lynchburg incident resulted in no injuries.
We have represented workers who have been injured by railroad company negligence in the past, such as a CSX conductor who was exposed to asbestos fibers in his work for decades. That case resulted in an $8.6 million verdict.
We hope that CSX and other companies in the industry will put a better focus on safety – both for the safety of the public and the environment.