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ORLANDO, March 25 (Reuters) - BNSF Railway Co said on Tuesday that production could start in January on the first batch of 5,000 next-generation tank cars designed to carry crude oil more safely, earlier than expected in an industry grappling with bottlenecks.
One of the country's biggest freight companies, BNSF last month asked railcar makers to build thousands of new cars that would come with thicker walls and increased protection of safety and pressure valves, among other features.
A recent string of fiery accidents involving crude trains across the industry have alarmed regulators and the public.
"We believe we could actually start seeing production first of January, which was encouraging," said BNSF Executive Chairman Matt Rose, who spoke at an American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) conference.
"We didn't think it could be quite that soon," he added.
Raiclar manufacturers in the United States include Trinity Industries Inc, American Railcar Industries Inc and Greenbrier Cos Inc. (Reporting By Robert Gibbons; Editing by Terry Wade)