According to the just released 11 page Derailment Report by the Office of Railroad Safety, Federal Railroad Administration into the August 5, 2018 Station Square derailment our government found “serious oversights” in Norfolk Southern’s operations/inspections.
A review of the FRA’s Accident Investigation Report reveals the following:
-the train was 57 cars long;
-8 of the cars were transporting Hazmat cargo;
- 7 double stack cars derailed because of a “detail fracture” beginning at or near the surface of the lower rail;
-the broken rail was detected by a Norfolk Southern contractor 21 days before the the Station Square derailment;
-the July 21 ultrasonic rail flaw detection test operator had multiple opportunities to recognize a potential defect and follow up with the ground inspection; however the operator never performed a hand test. Additionally, two camera images showed a broken rail. The fact that the operator disregarded the results from the initial test and also failed to utilize the camera images, constituted “serious oversight.“
-The unbroken high side rail was manufactured in 1995. The broken lower rail was a used “maintenance plug rail” manufactured in 1985 installed in December 2017. At the time of derailment it had significant vertical and gauge face wear and gauge corner shelling.
-Norfolk Southern did its own routine visual inspection 2 days before the derailment and failed to notice the break in the rail;
-there was a defective flange wear condition on the wheel of the first derailed car and the train operators were fatigued (neither finding was determined to be a contributing cause.)
-the derailment would have involved more cars but the train had just slowed from 39mph to 18mph.
Given the derailment after inspection last August, and then a sinkhole that was allowed to grow along the Merchant Street rail line, last February RP3 called for an investigation into whether Norfolk Southern was either inspecting improperly, or was ignoring the results of their inspections.
Based on the FRA Report, it is clear that it is not an either/or situation, but a bit of both.
Norfolk Southern is installing worn rail with little useful life into its system, running cars with worn wheels, using third party inspectors who are “disregarding multiple sources of rail inspection information.” Their “human error” was determined to be a “serious oversight” which contributed to the reason for the derailment. Of further interest is that the railroad lobby has arranged that none of the findings of any FRA Derailment Report may be used in any civil action for damages.
RP3 submits that Norfolk Southern does not deserve the trust of residents, the city, or our representatives in connection with its plan to increase rail traffic to 70-80 trains/day on a 20 mile zig-zag route through our most densely populated neighborhoods containing the city’s most critical infrastructure. Especially true since Norfolk Southern will be soon be carrying even more hazardous cargo (LNG) next to higher center of gravity less stable double stacks (soon to be double stacked volatile oil cars) all while NS and its railroad lobby are opposing:
-regulation and limits on rail track wear;
-stabilization of volatile oil;
-regulations covering “ladle surges” (sloshing);
-safer electronically controlled pneumatic brakes (ECP);
- speedy implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC);
-stronger tank cars;
-and two person crews on all trains.
Railroad rules have always been written in blood. There is a tombstone mentality at work here. Profits above all else.
To protect you and your loved ones, please ask your state and local representatives to stop the Pittsburgh Vertical Clearance Project until these operation/inspection issues are resolved.