The chemical-laden freight train, consisting of more than 150 cars, 9,300 feet in length, and 18,000 tons, derailed near East Palestine, Ohio, on February 3. Workers for Norfolk Southern are now admitting that they had concerns about the train’s size before the accident and that those concerns probably contributed to both the derailment and an earlier failure after the train left Illinois on February 1, according to CBS News.
One employee tells the news source that “we shouldn’t be running trains that are 150 car lengths long,” and that “it’s highly probable the impacts of the derailment would have been avoided” if the train hadn’t been so heavy. The train might pose a safety danger, according to two employees who talked with Motherboard.
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The former director of the Federal Railroad Administration, Sarah Feinberg, agrees that the size of the train would have been a concern.
“I was not satisfied with the lengths of the trains, and they were 80 or 90 cars long,” she says of her tenure at the FRA. The derailed one had 151 cars. Even while adding more cars might make trains more efficient overall for railroad firms, it takes more time for staff to examine such a train. Shorter inspection times in the name of such efficiency, according to Jared Cassity, national legislative director for one of the Norfolk Southern workers unions, made it likely that the car that derailed earlier this month hadn’t been examined “in some time.”
The accident, which was followed by a controlled burn that released a toxic plume into the sky, was, in his words, “expected” given the extra length and weight as well as the presence of all of the hazardous materials. “That will happen again if nothing changes.”
The weight distribution of this train was uniform all throughout, and it had a locomotive in the middle of the train that “helps manage the dynamic forces of the train and reduces occurrences of broken knuckles,” according to a statement from Norfolk Southern to WKBN. Norfolk Southern also notes that some of the claims being made about the train’s size are “simply false.” Further information about the dangers of larger trains is provided by USA Today, along with information on how and why this kind of catastrophe might become commonplace.
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