FRA Says Lack of Followup Led to NS Pittsburgh Wreck

The Federal Railroad Administration has attributed a 2018 Norfolk Southern derailment in Pittsburgh to a broken rail that had been identified but not fixed weeks before the derailment.

The broken rail was detected in two camera images made during a July 16 inspection by Sperry Rail Service, but no follow-up testing was performed.

A visual inspection of the track two days before the Aug. 5 derailment failed to find a defect.

The FRA report said “the Sperry car chief operator’s decisions . . . contributed to the cause of the derailment.

“Rail testing experts agree that the operator should have performed a hand test, based on the multiple sources of rail inspection information available  . . . during the Sperry car test. The operator’s decisions to disregard induction channel responses from the initial test and not utilize the camera images were serious oversights.”

The derailment on the NS Mon Line near Station Square closed the route for several days and caused more than $1 million in damage to equipment.

Derailed cars fell on a Port Authority of Pittsburgh light-rail line below, which disrupted service on that line for three weeks and caused more than $1.8 million in infrastructure damage.

In statement, NS said it found the FRA report to be factually accurate.

The railroad said it has been working with Sperry on improved human procedures and oversight “to ensure that this type of error does not happen again.”

Sperry declined to comment on the report.

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