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10/20/2005



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

U.S. railroads have a month to correct switch alignment problems, FRA says



By Nov. 22, U.S. railroads must take measures to ensure switches are properly aligned in non-signaled territory, according to an emergency order issued by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) yesterday.

The administration issued the 30-day deadline to prevent more train accidents caused by misaligned switches. Since January, nine train accidents — which killed 10 and injured more than 600 people — have occurred because switches were left in the wrong position, FRA officials said in a prepared statement. The accidents happened in areas not equipped with remote electronic signal monitors and employees failed to follow track-switching procedures, officials said.

The emergency order mandates that railroads re-train and periodically test workers on switch operating procedures, and prompt more communication between crew members regarding switch position. Workers must provide written documentation every time a switch is moved and locomotive engineers must acknowledge that switches are properly set before operating a train.

Railroad employees who violate the emergency order might be liable for a civil penalty of up to $27,000, FRA officials said.

“There is absolutely no excuse for a switch to be left in the wrong position,” said FRA Administrator Joseph Boardman. “This dangerous, preventable and increasingly frequent situation must stop, starting now.”


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