Norfolk Southern on Monday announced a “six-point plan” to improve safety, a blueprint the rail company issued after its second train derailment in Ohio in a matter of weeks.
On Saturday, about 20 cars of a 212-car train derailed on Saturday near Springfield, Ohio, although Norfolk Southern said there were no hazardous materials on the train. The accident occurred roughly a month after a derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, that involved hazardous materials and forced hundreds of nearby residents to evacuate for several days.
Norfolk Southern’s safety plan comes ahead of a Thursday Senate hearing about the East Palestine crash, with CEO Alan Shaw scheduled to appear. The accident has sparked lawsuits and anger from residents as well as intense congressional scrutiny, with some pointing to a preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report that cited a surveillance video showing “what appeared to be a wheel bearing in the final stage of overheat failure moments before the derailment.”
Four of the six points in Norfolk Southern’s safety plan relate to bearing detectors, which are installed on rail tracks and provide real-time warnings to train crews. The company said on Monday that it will develop a plan to add additional detectors “where practical,” noting that it expects to add about 200 hot bearing detectors, with the first installed near East Palestine.
The five other safety points are:
- Work with manufacturers to develop new types of hot bearing detectors that may be more effective at catching overheated bearings.
- Review industry standards and practices for hot bearing detectors.
- Immediately accelerate the deployment of acoustic bearing detectors, which analyze the acoustic signature of vibrations inside an axle to spot potential problems.
- Work with Georgia Tech Research to develop new advanced safety inspection technology, including using AI to identify defects.
- Join the Federal Railroad Administration’s Confidential Close Call Reporting system to “support a strong safety culture.”
“Reading the NTSB report makes it clear that meaningful safety improvements require a comprehensive industry effort that brings together railcar and tank car manufacturers, railcar owners and lessors, and the railroad companies,” Shaw said in a statement.
The company added that the NTSB report said that its rail crew “operated the train within the company’s rules and operated the train below the track speed limit” and that its “wayside hot bearing detectors were operating as designed.”
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