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BNSF Railway Co. yesterday announced it has taken additional steps to improve crude-by-rail transportation on its network.In a letter to customers, BSNF said it would work with them to phase out use of the older-model DOT-111 tank cars for shale crude service on its network within a year, and phase out unmodified CPC-1232 cars from shale crude service within three years."The recent incidents involving crude, including our own on March 5 near Galena, Ill., have further highlighted communities' concerns and led us to believe that we must take further action," states the letter, which BNSF posted on its website. "While DOT-111 and unmodified CPC-1232 tank cars are still in use, it is clear to us that these additional measures need to be taken to prevent future incidents or mitigate the impacts of one. This underscores the urgency for moving to a safer tank car as quickly as possible, as well as reducing risk for existing tank cars while they remain in shale crude service."BNSF also said that it has slowed to a 35 mph speed limit all shale crude trains operating on BNSF track through cities with populations over 100,000. Additionally, rail detection frequency will be increased near critical waterways — a measure that exceeds a voluntary agreement made with the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) last year, according to the letter."BNSF utilizes an extensive wayside detection network that provides health monitoring of our locomotives and cars. We will reduce the tolerance of removing cars from the train upon notification of a defect," the letter states.Moreover, the Class I will work with communities on a case-by-case basis to address concerns over certain grade crossings."We know that increased train volumes, not just crude volumes — as well as the operating changes we are proposing, and those already implemented, have raised concerns that there could be community grade crossing impacts," BNSF officials wrote. "As always, we will be mindful of that and continue working with our communities on a case-by-case basis with willingness to participate financially in projects that mitigate those impacts."The new measures build on steps the railroad implemented in August 2013, as well as those that the Association of American Railroads agreed to follow when it entered into a voluntary agreement with the USDOT in in February 2014 to improve crude-by-rail safety.
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