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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.”

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/20/2005