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article imageU.S. bill to increase safety resources for short line rail

By Tim Sandle     Jun 17, 2014 in Politics
Washington - U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Patty Murray (D-Washington), have introduced a bill that would authorize a new Short Line Rail Safety Institute to enhance the safety practices and culture of short line railroads.
There are 550 short line railroad companies that operate over 50,000 miles of track, or nearly one third of the U.S. national railroad network. The tracks can be as short as two miles or up to more than 1,000 miles long. Safety is a big issued on such stretches of rail; the horrific derailment that occurred in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, last year (just 30 miles from the Maine border) is an example. This incident showed the importance of ensuring the safe transportation of energy products.
The aim of the bill is to put forward new policies and to have systems in place to prevent rail accidents on short stretches and respond to emergencies.
The bill follows an April hearing that focused on safety issues related to rail shipment of crude oil. Secretary Foxx, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman, Director of the Seattle Office of Emergency Management Barb Graff, and Rangeley, ME, Fire Chief Tim Pellerin, who led emergency response efforts after a train carrying crude oil derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, in 2013, each testified at that hearing.
The legislation introduced by Senators Collins and Murray aims to authorize funding to support grants for research, development, evaluation, and training efforts.
The legislation also includes the formation of a new Short Line Rail Safety Institute. In conjunction with the bill, the two Senators sent a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx expressing support for the creation of such an institution. The remit of this proposed body would be to:
Assess the operations and safety programs of short line railroads;
Develop best practices and work with short lines to implement these practices;
Provide professional on-site safety training for short line employees;
Purchase and utilize safety training assets (such as locomotive simulators);
Assist FRA in implementing its railroad R&D and outreach programs, and tailor such programs for short line railroad operations; and
Help improve safety culture, including a reduction in the frequency and severity of injuries and incidents, as well as improved compliance with regulatory requirements.
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