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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Follow-up: DOT Issues Emergency Order on Train Switches

US Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta issued an emergency order Wednesday night directed at all US railroad companies to improve track switches. The Federal Railway Administration has set a November 22, 2005 for the railroads to be compliant. It is unknown, at this time, whether any such switches are located in Indiana.

From the DOT release:
Mineta said his department's Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has set a Nov. 22 deadline in an emergency order mandating all railroads take specific and immediate steps to end the problem, which has led to nine serious train crashes, ten fatalities and injuries to more than 600 people since January.

The accidents have occurred when employees working in areas not equipped with remote electronic signal monitors failed to follow track-switching procedures, Mineta said. In every case, the failure to reset the hand-operated switches has led to trains running onto the wrong tracks and derailing or colliding with locomotives or rail cars or both, he added.

“Railroads must put an end to these avoidable and deadly mistakes,” Mineta said.

Any railroad company, supervisor or employee who violates this emergency order may be liable for a civil penalty of up to $27,000, according to the order.

“There is absolutely no excuse for a switch to be left in the wrong position,” said FRA Administrator Joseph H. Boardman. “This dangerous, preventable, and increasingly frequent situation must stop, starting now.”
Such errors caused the Graniteville, South Carolina, train derailment that Indiana Parley cited in its October 13 posting.

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