Posts Tagged ‘NS derailment’

NTSB Eyes Defective Defect Detector in May 10 NS Derailment in New Castle, Pennsylvania

June 2, 2023

Federal investigators are eyeing a defect detector failure that may led to a May 10 derailment on North Southern’s Youngstown Line in New Castle, Pennsylvania.

A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board has determined that a detector found a critical alert several miles before the train reached New Castle, but that alert was not received by the crew aboard the train or the NS network operations center in Atlanta.

Instead, the train continued to travel for between 15 to 34 miles before derailing.

Had the alarm been received the crew would have been required to stop their train immediately.

The NTSB said the defect occurred on the 164th car of train 14M, which was en route from Conway Yard near Pittsburgh to Buffalo, New York.

The report said signal maintainers working on the track two days before the derailment removed and reinstalled components of the defect detector but did so incorrectly.

That led the detector to transmit inaccurate data to the Atlanta Center regarding the defect.

The component parts in question has since been reinstalled and tested to determine they are working properly.

Nine cars of the 14M derailed in the late night incident, cars 165 through 172. The train was traveling 28 miles per hour at the time of the derailment.

Investigators recovered a burned-off bearing from the wreckage.

No one was injured in the derailment and just one car in the train was carrying a hazardous substance.

NTSB Sets Hearings in East Palestine

May 29, 2023

A two-day hearing has been set for June 22-23 in East Palestine to take testimony as part of the investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board of a Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern derailment in the town located near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border.

The hearings, to be held at East Palestine High School, will begin at 9 a.m.

In a news release, NTSB officials said the hearings will focus on hazard communications and emergency responder preparedness for the initial emergency response; the circumstances that led to the decision to vent and burn five rail tank cars carrying vinyl chloride; freight car bearing failure modes and wayside detection systems; and tank car derailment damage, crashworthiness, and hazardous materials package information.

The hearings are open to the public but only NTSB board members, investigators, scheduled witnesses and parties to the hearing will be allowed to participate.

NS Train Deails in New Castle, Pa.

May 12, 2023

No injuries were reported and no hazardous materials were involved in a Norfolk Southern derailment on Wednesday night in New Castle, Pennsylvania, on the Youngstown Line.

The train was reported to be carrying soybeans and paraffin wax.

Police said nine cars derailed near Montgomery Avenue and Lafayette Street around 11 p.m. The tracks there span the Mahoning River, but no cars fell into the waterway.

News reports indicated the derailment resulted in the halting of a train in Lowellville, Ohio, which blocked grade crossings in the downtown area as well as well as River Road near Struthers.

NS said the track affected by the derailment had reopened by Thursday afternoon.

However, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said a portion of State Route 18 between Mt. Jackson Road (Route 108) and Blanchard Street remained closed to traffic.

NS to Compensate Property Owners for Value Loss

May 11, 2023

Norfolk Southern said this week it will compensate homeowners living near the derailment site in East Palestine.

The Class 1 carrier said the compensation will be given to those whose homes decreased in value following a Feb. 3 derailment that spilled hazardous chemicals and forced the evacuation of some residents for several days.

NS CEO Alan Shaw told members of a U.S. Senate committee that NS expects to provide compensation to homeowners living within a 5-mile radius of the derailment site and who have sold their homes for less than the pre-Feb. 3 appraised value.

Shaw told committee members in a letter that it has already contracted with a firm to evaluate the local property market and develop a plan.

NS Reports on Removing Soil from East Palestine

April 19, 2023

Norfolk Southern said this week it has completed the excavation of soil and ballast on Track 1 in East Palestine at the site of a Feb. 3 derailment that resulted in spilled hazardous chemicals.

The carrier said work would begin on Track 2 next week.

NS took the track out of service in preparation for the excavation work.

Officials said in a news release that the excavation work was conducted “using a U.S. EPA-approved protocol.”

Testing continues to show that the air and water at the derailment site and the surrounding areas remain safe, NS said.

In its announcement, NS said Sulphur Run has been rerouted around the derailment site. Workers continue to conduct downstream testing to find contaminated sections and conduct remediation.

Thus far, NS said it has excavated and removed more than 25,000 tons of soil from the derailment site.

U.S. EPA Sues NS over East Palestine Derailment

April 3, 2023

The federal government is suing Norfolk Southern over the Feb. 3 derailment at East Palestine.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection agency by the U.S. Department of Justice in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District  of Ohio.

The suit alleges that NS violated the Clean Water Act. It is similar to a lawsuit filed against NS by the State of Ohio.

U.S. EPA is seeking to force NS to pay the full costs of the environmental cleanup and claims the railroad unlawfully polluted waterways.

The carrier would be subject to penalties of $64,618 per day per violation of federal law and of $55,808 per day or $2,232 per barrel of oil or unit of hazardous substance for discharge of oil or hazardous substances into waterways.

Another objective of the lawsuit is to obtain an order to NS “to remedy, mitigate, and offset the harm to public health and the environment” caused by those violations.

In a related development, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said NS has agreed to hire Ohio companies as part of the cleanup operation in East Palestine.

Yost said that agreement will not affect the state’s lawsuit against NS stemming from the derailment.

Preliminary Reports Released on 2 NS Ohio Incidents

March 22, 2023

The National Transportation Board has issued preliminary reports on two incidents involving NS trains in Ohio earlier this month.

Wheelsets of steel coil care are being eyed as the cause of a March 4 derailment of 28 cars near Springfield of train C04.

The agency has placed an investigative hold on wheelsets of the cars involved in the Springfield derailment and other truck component. The hold also includes wheelsets of similar NS cars that were not involved in the derailment.

The wheelsets will be examined at the NS shops in Altoona, Pennsylvania.

Investigators are going to focus on “failure analysis of the subject wheelsets and on industry-wide standards and practices for rail car wheel and axle assembly processes, specifications, and quality control.”

There were no injuries in the Springfield derailment, but some cars took down a power line, causing 47 homes to lose electricity. No hazardous substances were involved in the derailment.

The March 7 incident in Cleveland left an NS conductor dead after his train struck a dump truck at a grade crossing on the grounds of a Cleveland-Cliffs Incorporated steel plant.

NTSB investigators determined the truck and train entered the crossing at the same time. The conductor was riding the train in a shoving move.

The truck was owned by TMS International and was hauling rock. Video taken from a steel company camera showed the truck stopped for the crossing and then began to cross the tracks.

The train was traveling 9 miles per house at the time of the collision. The top speed within the plant is 10 mph. The grade crossing has stop signs but no flashing signals.

NS CEO Gets Another Grilling in Washington

March 22, 2023

Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw spent another day in the hot seat in front of a Senate committee.

On Wednesday Shaw faced questioning from members of the Senate Commerce Committee.

As he has at other hearings, Shaw said NS has taken steps to improve safety and continues to provide financial support to the East Palestine community in the wake of a Feb. 3 derailment that forced hundreds to evacuate their homes for several days.

Ohio Senators J.D. Vance and Sherrod Brown make a pitch for support for legislation they have introduced to mandate new regulations of the shipment of hazardous materials by rail.

The proposed Rail Safety Act of 2023 would speed up the phasing out of DOT-111 tank cars.

The bill also would require that first responders have access to real-time data on hazardous materials shipments moving through their communities, regulate wayside defect detectors, limit train length and tonnage, and require two-person crews.

Although Shaw and Association of American Railroads head Ian Jefferies expressed support in principle for the proposed legislation, they also called for a data-driven approach to improving safety.

The two executives supported the faster phase-out of DOT-111 tank cars, better wayside detection systems, and providing first responders with information.

But Shaw said he was unaware of any studies showing that a two-person crew is safer than a one-person crew.

Clyde Whitaker, an Ohio legislator who is a legislative director for the SMART-TD union, said a conductor is an engineer’s eyes and ears, something he said is essential when there’s a problem or a derailment.

Whitaker claimed that NS has instructed train crews to disregard wayside detector failures and keep trains moving.

Echoing criticism from railroad labor unions and others, Whitaker argued that the precision scheduled railroad operating model has led carriers to reduce their work forces so as to operate longer and heavier trains. He said such trains are harder to handle.

Shaw contended that NS is committed to improving its safety practices and said NS is a safe railroad that reduced its number of derailments last year to the lowest level in two decades.

Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, said it may be that mainline railroad accident rates are falling, but yard accident rates are rising.

She said rail remains the safest way to transport hazardous materials even thought some NTSB safety recommendations pertaining to safety practices have yet to be implemented in the railroad industry or mandated by the Federal Railroad Administration.

East Palestine resident Misti Allison testified about the effect of the derailment on the residents of her community.

“Alan Shaw has repeatedly said that Norfolk Southern will ‘make it right,’” she said. “But who determines what is right in a situation like this?”

AAR Issues Advisory on Coil Car Wheel Defects

March 19, 2023

A railroad industry trade association has recommended that railroads remove from service coil cars similar to those involved in a March 5 derailment of a Norfolk Southern train in Springfield, Ohio.

The Association of American Railroads made the recommendation, which it said affects about 675 coil cars from service recently built by National Steel Car of Hamilton, Ontario.

At least two of the cars were involved in the Springfield derailment.

In its announcement, the AAR said a defect in the cars may have caused horizontal movement as the cars were in motion. Investigators found loose wheels on two of the cars in questions involved in the Ohio derailment.

According to the AAR, the defect may have caused horizontal movement as the car traveled down the line. The AAR recommendation advises railroads to replace the wheel sets before putting them back into service.

“This is an uncommon defect to see in a wheel set that demanded urgent action,” AAR said in a statement.

The cars covered by the advisory were built between August 2022 and March 2023.

Shareholders Sue NS in Wake of Derailment

March 19, 2023

Some shareholders of Norfolk Southern have sued the company over what they allege is financial losses suffered as a result of a Feb. 3 derailment in East Palestine.

The suit was filed by the law firm of Bragar Eagle & Squire, which contends cost cutting at NS rooted in the railroad’s precision scheduled operating practices has had negative consequences for investors.

The law firm issued a news release contendig that NS “made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose” that its operating practices have “led to … a materially increased risk of future derailments” and “was part of a culture of increased risk-taking at the expense of reasonable safety precautions due to Norfolk Southern’s near-term focus solely on profits.”

Similar lawsuits also have been filed by the law firm Bernstein Liebhard LLP; Bronstein, Gewirtz & Grossman LLC; and the Bucks County Employees Retirement System of Pennsylvania.

In a related development 21 lawsuits filed against NS over the East Palestine derailment have been consolidated into one action.

Judge Benita Y. Pearson of U.S. District Court had sought the consolidation of the lawsuits and has named three attorneys to lead the consolidation and coordination of the cases.

In an unrelated development, NS has donated $250,000 to The Way Station, which has been assisting East Palestine residents since the derailment.

The non-profit organization has been providing food, clothing, water, hygiene products, diapers, cleaning supplies, and gift cards to purchase other necessities.

NS said it has committed approximately $24 million toward assisting East Palestine and expects to spend more over time.