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CPR joins UP in FRA's 'close call' reporting pilot

A second Class I is participating in a Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) safety pilot program that enables employees to anonymously report "close call" incidents.

Under a waiver granted by the agency, Canadian Pacific Railway has joined Union Pacific Railroad in the Close Call Reporting System Demonstration Pilot Project. About 350 Wisconsin-based CPR employees now can voluntarily report potential accident-causing incidents — such as an improper air brake test before a train leaves a yard or a train proceeding beyond approved track authority in dark territory — to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) without fearing the railroad or federal government will impose a sanction or penalty, the FRA said. BTS will collect close-call reports for five years.

"This pilot project is an opportunity to improve our performance and provide an even safer work environment for our employees," said CPR Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Kathryn McQuade in a prepared statement.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and United Transportation Union (UTU) ratified agreements with the FRA to enable CPR employees to participate in the pilot. Certain BLET- and UTU-represented CPR workers in St. Paul, Minn., will also participate in the program.

UP workers at Bailey Yard in North Platte, Neb., began reporting close calls in February 2007. The FRA is working with the Alaska Railroad Corp. to become the third railroad in the program. In addition, the agency is awaiting the outcome of the Bush Administration's request to appropriate $1.2 million for the program in a proposed fiscal-year 2009 budget.

The FRA will study information gathered during the pilot to determine areas of potential risk and develop solutions to prevent accidents. A review team will evaluate the reports as they're received to make safety recommendations for incidents that require immediate attention.

"This risk-reduction program provides an indispensable opportunity to analyze close-call events to help identify and correct potential safety problems across the industry," said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Boardman.

Meanwhile, the FRA also announced that for the first time, investigation reports on major train accidents now are available on the agency's Web site. Online-accessible reports will increase public awareness about the causes of specific train accidents and reduce the need for individuals to submit Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain reports, the FRA said.

Investigation reports are available for all of 2005 and 2006, and first-quarter 2007. Reports for the remainder of 2007 and portions of 2008 will be posted soon or when they become available. A major train accident investigation typically takes six to nine months to complete, the FRA said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/3/2008