FRA Orders Railroad Safety Improvements

By: Domonique Benn
By: Domonique Benn

January 6, 2006
Ten months after the deadly chlorine release, the Federal Railroad Administration ordered all railroad companies to improve manual track switching procedures. And while Norfolk Southern says they had similar procedures in place, the FRA’s mandation will only make it safer.

A lot has changed since a year ago, from slowing trains down in Graniteville to making sure manual switches are in the right place and it is documented, nearly a year after the Graniteville collision and chlorine release. In this 300-page report, an engineer, brakeman and conductor admit to the National Transportation and Safety Board they may have forgotten to flip this switch in the correct place. It’s a mistake that cost 9 people their lives and hundreds are still suffering from breathing problems after the colliding train’s chlorine was released.

Nearly a year after this accident, the Federal Railroad Administration ordered all railroad companies to improve manual switch procedures.

“We have put in place the measures the FRA put forth regarding the procedures railroad crews have to go through to document whether or not manual switches are open or closed,” said Robin Chapman, Norfolk Southern.

Norfolk Southern says they had procedures in place, but the FRA just adds another level of security.

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

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

And what about the speed of trains? Norfolk Southern slowed the trains to 25 miles per hour.

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