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Rail News: Intermodal

'Very low potential' for derailment at Washington state port, TUV Rheinland study shows


Based on an extensive analysis of rail infrastructure at the Port of Vancouver USA and its willingness to invest in additional safety enhancements, there is very low potential for a derailment as trains enter the Washington state port, TÜV Rheinland Rail Services Inc. recently concluded in a study.

Commissioned by the port, the TÜV Rheinland study evaluated the derailment risk on about 3,000 feet of track exiting a BNSF Railway Co. mainline and entering the port. The track section will form a significant portion of a new rail entrance that's part of the port’s West Vancouver Freight Access (WVFA) project. After it's completed in 2015, the entrance will reduce congestion on the regional rail system by as much as 40 percent, port officials said in a press release.

The study provides a neutral, third-party safety evaluation of the track and offers recommendations on additional steps that could be taken to make the track safer, they said.

"Regardless of what type of cargo is being transported, our priority is that trains move through our community without incident; and we’re committed to doing everything we can to ensure that our rail system is unparalleled when it comes to safety," said Curtis Shuck, the port's director of economic development and facilities.

TÜV Rheinland conducted multiple simulations using the track's geometry data, operating speeds and train data for three different types of trains: a grain, oil and potash train. Based on in-train force and vehicle dynamics analyses, the study found that the proposed operation and track configuration is "well within industry safety standards" with "a low risk of derailment," port officials said.

The study also recommends five safety enhancements, all of which the port plans to implement:
• maintaining track to a minimum Class II standard to reduce levels of allowable track deviation and the associated risks of local track perturbations;
• installing a high guard rail frog on a No. 15 turnout and double guard rail on the connection track between the turnout and BNSF overhead bridge to further reduce damage potential;
• constructing track structure with new concrete or wood ties, premium fasteners and continuous-welded, 141-pound rail to maintain a less dynamically varying track structure;
• obtaining rail neutral temperature measurements during track construction to properly set the track's neutral temperature; and
• measuring track geometry periodically to help prevents derailments.

Implementation of the safety enhancements — estimated to cost $500,000 — will begin in the fourth quarter and be completed in 2015, port officials said. The enhancements will be made regardless of whether an oil terminal proposed by long-term tenant Tesoro and partner Savage moves forward, they said.

Plans are under way to conduct a similar assessment of the remainder of the WVFA project.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/27/2014