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FRA Scrutinizes Railroad Merger Due to Safety Concerns

Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. wants to merge with Norfolk Southern Corp., but federal regulators in the US worry that mergers of large railroads could lead to railroad safety concerns.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regulates rail safety in the United States, and is looking carefully at the proposed merger, as it scrutinizes safety worries that could result when such large railroad companies merge.

Some of the challenges include the combination of the safety cultures of two different companies. Specifically, FRA wants to know which company’s safety rules and protocols would be followed first, and how to build the newly combined workforce so that communication channels remain open.

FRA may not block a railroad merger; the Surface Transportation Board must approve it. However, the FRA does work with railroads on safety integration plans to make sure that safe operations continue when a merger occurs.

train

One of the major safety concerns is related to oil train safety. The last few years have seen several fiery derailments of oil-laden trains that led to serious injuries and deaths. One of those cases occurred in Lynchburg VA, where an oil train derailed and spilled thousands of gallons of crude oil into the James River.

Our railroad injury attorneys are pleased that the FRA is looking carefully at this proposed merger and is ensuring that public safety takes precedence above all else. Our experience with railroads in personal injury lawsuits tells us that such large corporations are quick to put profit ahead of safety at times.

In a record setting $60 million verdict in a train derailment case, we represented a man who suffered terrible injuries when a Norfolk Southern train derailed and crashed into his gas station. Even though it was obvious from the huge amount of evidence we brought to the case that the railroad was clearly at fault, Norfolk Southern denied responsibility for a full year.

Anyone who suffers an injury in any kind of railroad accident should know that the railroad often will try to deny responsibility, so it behooves you to consult with an expert railroad personal injury attorney in your area about the case. Look for a law firm that has a record of multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts in train accidents and derailments.

Questions Arise After Fatal Pedestrian/Train Accident

A 16 year-old boy was hit by a train in NW Houston TX last Friday and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police reported that the young man was hit at 8:45 am near West 34th Street and TC Jester in Houston. His body was thrown under a trestle on the bridge that crosses the street White Oak Bayou. Police added that the student was walking on the tracks with a friend.

crossing

The other boy ran off the tracks when he saw the train approaching but the other did not seem to hear or understand how close the train was.

When a train goes through a crossing in Texas, the protocol is for the train crew to sound two longer whistles, a short whistle and then another long one as the train goes through the crossing. In an emergency, the crew is supposed to sound the whistle at a different cadence to warn people off the tracks.

Some have questioned if there was a delay when the whistle was sounded, and the incident is being investigated by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Our rail accident legal firm in Virginia has seen many train accidents involving both pedestrians and vehicles. In some cases, the train operator fails to provide sufficient warning to the car or pedestrian and serious injury can result. In other cases, we have seen instances where the driver’s or pedestrian’s view is obstructed by vegetation at a railroad crossing, leading to a serious accident.

Anyone who has a loved one injured or killed on train tracks should ensure that the railroad company was adhering to all regulations at the time of the accident. Negligence on their part can lead to devastating consequences.

 

 

Broken Rail Led to WV Oil Train Derailment, Officials State

By Randy Appleton, Virginia Railroad Accident Attorney

A West Virginia crude oil train derailment in February 2015 that caused a fire and forced several hundred people to leave their homes was due to a split rail, according to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) last week.

Two CSX rail inspections in December 2014 and January 2015 did not detect the defect in the rail before the derailment on Feb. 16. The FRA stated that broken rails are one of the top causes of railroad accidents. Railroads that move crude oil through communities  have to be as safe as possible, FRA stated that CSX, as well as other railroad companies, must be more careful in their inspection processes.

rail va

FRA stated that it will mandate that CSX provides inspectors with more access to earlier inspection reports to prevent accidents in the future. FRA also stated that it will look at the need for better railhead wear standards to prevent such derailments.

FRA gave $25,000 fines to CSX and Sperry Rail Service, which is the company that did the inspections. A Sperry Rail Service inspector was reported to have seen the rail fault but declined to get out of his car to look at it.

The derailment outside of Mount Carbon WV caused 27 cars loaded with shale crude oil to fall off the tracks. The oil threatened to leak into local water supplies, and smoke from the large fire forced hundreds to evacuate their homes.

Our railroad accident law firm in Virginia is all too well accustomed to irresponsible train and railroad companies that neglect to ensure that their equipment is in proper working order. This often leads to derailments that cause serious injury. We once had a client whose train derailed, and his body hit metallic parts in the cab. After he left work, he went to the ER because he was having headaches as well as shoulder pain. He started to have headaches often and also tingling in his arms.

It turned out that the accident caused a spinal cord syrinx, which caused spinal fluid to collect beside the spinal cord. Our job was to convince a jury that the derailment led to the injury. It eventually was settled out of court for $190,000.

Amtrak Train Smashes Truck, Driver Uninjured

By Richard Shapiro, Railroad Accident Attorney

A box truck driver jumped to safety just seconds before an Amtrak train slammed into his vehicle in San Diego CA on Aug. 31. 

The wreck happened in San Diego near the intersection of West Washington and Pacific Highway. The box truck had part of its cargo bay over the tracks at the time.

amtrak

The local police reported that the light turned red on Pacific Highway but the truck was unable to move off the tracks due to traffic ahead of him. The construction company truck was hit by the train just seconds after the driver jumped out. The truck spun into the opposite lanes of traffic and tore off a utility pole. Two other cars were hit, but no one was injured. The cause of the accident is being investigated.

We as railroad accident attorneys in Virginia know all too well the devastating accidents that can occur at railroad crossings across America. The Federal Railroad Administration reports that cars and trains hit each other every 12 minutes, which led to 9600 train/car accidents in 2009.

The reasons for these accidents are many, but they tend to fall into these categories:

  1. Maintenance problems with the train or rail system, which can include defective brakes on the train.
  2. Drowsy train engineer; about 34% of all car/train accidents involve some type of human error on the part of the train or car/truck operator.
  3. Distracted train engineer – Some accidents occur when the engineer is talking or texting on a cell phone.
  4. Safety gate failure – Some gates malfunction and stay up, even when the train is coming. So, a car can get stuck on the tracks.

Our railroad accident lawyers are experienced in reviewing all relevant evidences – such as train cameras, black box recorders, and signalization information – to see if there were any malfunctions that caused the accident.

 

 

Most Railroads Won’t Meet Deadline For New Safety Technology

By Richard Shapiro, Railroad Accident Attorney

Only a few railroads will come close to meeting a new federal deadline to install new safety technology that may prevent some crashes. Some of those crashes include derailments due to excessive speed, such as the deadly Amtrak wreck in Philadelphia last May. 

Just three railroads have turned in their safety plans to the federal government. This is necessary before they can place the new technology – positive train control (PTC) – into operation. The railroads are BNSF Railway, Metrolink in Lose Angeles, and Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.

Amtrak has not yet submitted their plan, but railroad authorities state that they think PTC will be operating in the Northeast Corridor by the end of the year.

The PTC being put into place uses GPS, wireless radio and computer technology to monitor the position of trains and will automatically slow or stop trains that may derail because they are going to fast or are about to crash into another train.

train

A rail safety law that was passed seven years ago gave railroads seven years to install PTC. The technology is expensive, and many railroads did not move quickly. However, the May 12 Amtrak crash, which killed eight and injured at least 200, has spurred the federal government to start to push rail companies to get PTC installed as soon as possible.

As Virginia railroad accident attorneys, we have seen many train derailments occur due to poor maintenance and lax safety standards on the part of railroad companies. About 40% of train derailments in the US are caused by broken rails and track problems, and many others are caused by excessive speed.

A major union, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division, called this year for rail companies to do more for rail safety and to keep train tracks in proper repair. This is especially important in the case of oil trains; all it takes is one worn out section of track for a major derailment to occur, and this can be a true disaster when dozens of tankers carrying crude oil are involved.

Some companies have been fighting the installation of PTC on oil tanker cars, which we find to be truly unfortunate. The installation of PTC can not only reduce the incidence of oil trains derailing: It could prevent most derailments, such as the Amtrak crash that took so many lives. We hope that all railroad companies will get on board and get PTC installed as soon as possible, and generally do more to increase the safety of the US rail system.