Community Reacts to Railroad Safety Changes

By: Domonique Benn
By: Domonique Benn

January 6, 2006
Norfolk Southern has done a lot to make sure that a tragedy like the one a year ago does not happen again. But as News 12 reports, some residents don’t feel the changes are good enough.

Michael Meeds, Sr. lives a stone’s throw away from the Norfolk Southern train tracks and every time he hears a train, it brings back bad memories.

“It bothers me to even be here now,” Meeds said.

Exactly one year ago, three Norfolk Southern crewmen forgot to flip this manual switch. Hours later this train collided with a parked one. Deadly chlorine gas in two of the tanks of the colliding train was released. Nine people died. Hundreds of others still suffer. There were a lot of questions in the days after, for example had the train been traveling slower could this have happened?

One of the things Norfolk Southern has done is slow the trains down for safety.

“They’re still going too fast,” Meeds said.

Now Norfolk Southern is only supposed to travel through at 25 miles per hour, something that Michael Meeds does not believe.

“The 5 a.m. train comes through here he’s still doing 40 miles per hour on occasion,” Meeds said.

And more safety measures were added. Nearly a year later, the Federal Railroad Administration ordered all railroad companies to improve manual track switching procedures, such as signing off on whether the switch is in the correct position.

“What the FRA rules do is put more documentation to what the crews are supposed to be doing,” said Robin Chapman, Norfolk Southern.

Still little doubt for the people who lived through the Graniteville train disaster.

“You can never take out the human factor,” Meeds said.

Federal regulations companies had to retrain and test workers on the procedures, which includes signing a statement that a switch is set correctly.


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