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FRA to UP: 'Clean up your safety act in San Antonio'

Following a series of train accidents involving Union Pacific Railroad, the Federal Railroad Administration yesterday entered into a one-year Safety Compliance Agreement with UP to improve rail safety in San Antonio, Texas.

In July, FRA began what it terms an "extensive and comprehensive review" of UP’s safety compliance performance in Texas. Federal inspectors rode UP trains, oversaw UP inspectors performing their work, conducted FRA’s own inspections and audited UP’s Field Testing Exercise (FTX) Program. FRA’s conclusion: UP failed in its implementation and management oversight of its FTX Program, which tests train crew compliance with railroad operating rules and other federal safety regulations.

Under the agreement, UP’s San Antonio Service Unit must:

• immediately begin a "thorough and vigorous program" to re-instruct all railroad testing managers on the entire contents and requirements of its FTX Program;

• conduct monthly analysis of FTX Program data, formulate a monthly plan to correct identified problems, and require the headquarters in Omaha audit the plan on a quarterly basis; and

• assign an official to be directly responsible for the implementation of this agreement.

FRA also has ordered additional federal inspectors from other regions to Texas to supplement existing staff in inspecting and monitoring UP adherence to the agreement. The first team already is in San Antonio working with front-line UP managers and train crews. FRA plans to send additional inspectors in the coming weeks.

Should FRA determine that UP isn’t fulfilling the compliance agreement, the agency would issue a "stronger compliance order" that would require the railroad to perform the agreement provisions — a requirement that would be enforceable in Federal Court, where "top railroad officials could be held personally liable," according to an FRA statement.

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More News from 11/17/2004