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RDC's Guatemalan railroad marks 12 months without a personal injury


On Feb. 3, Ferrovias Guatemala (FVG) reached a safety milestone: one year without a personal injury. In 1999, the 200-mile railroad — which operates mainlines between Guatemala City and ports in Puerto Barrios and Puerto Santo Tomas — had more than 40 personal injuries.

If the railroad were located in the United States, it would be a candidate for a gold Harriman award, said Henry Posner III, chairman of FVG and its parent Railroad Development Corp. (RDC), in a prepared statement.

“This is a remarkable achievement given the past and present circumstances under which our company has operated,” he said.

In 1996, Guatemala abandoned the national railway after years of deferred maintenance, traffic declines and squatter invasions. In 1999, an RDC-led consortium began restoring and operating the railroad after obtaining a 50-year concession in 1997. Now, FVG moves more than 155,000 tons of freight, including containers, sugar and steel.

“Changing the culture in a country without a ‘safety mentality’ has been one of the most difficult challenges that I have faced in my 40-plus years of railroading,” said FVG President Bill Duggan. “We started with the philosophy that it was the right thing to do, knowing that change had to start at the top, and with the mindset that safety training and awareness for all involved was a condition of employment. The next challenge is to complete the full calendar year 2006 with the same results.”

In 2004, RDC-owned Iowa Interstate Railroad Ltd. won a gold Harriman because the 552-mile regional reported no personal injuries in 2003. RDC operates other railroads in the United States, Argentina, Peru, Estonia, Mozambique and Malawi.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/7/2006