COLUMN-Railroads act to reduce crude-by-rail risks: Kemp

Tue Feb 25, 2014 9:19am EST
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By John Kemp

LONDON Feb 25 (Reuters) - U.S. railroad operators have agreed new safety procedures to reduce the number of fiery derailments involving crude-carrying trains and cut the risk of a catastrophic explosion in a densely populated urban centre.

The agreement between the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), announced on Friday, builds on safety enhancements many rail operators had already implemented individually.

Most of the major railroads in the United States and Canada had already agreed to designate trains carrying 20 or more tank cars of crude or ethanol as "key trains" following a series of train fires.

The designation, which is also used for trains carrying explosive, toxic and nuclear materials, gives them priority over all other traffic on the network, limits them to a maximum speed of 50 miles per hour, and requires comprehensive risk assessment and route-planning procedures.

From the end of March, however, the railroads will step up track inspections along routes which are used by trains carrying 20 or more carloads of oil.

Cracked or broken rails are one of the most common causes of derailments. Crude shippers and the oil industry have complained that railroads have not done enough to keep their trains on the rails, and blamed the train companies for the recent spate of fires.

Enhanced inspections - including high-tech measurements of track geometry, such as curvature and alignment - will go beyond current standards set by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and are meant to demonstrate rail operators are doing all they can to avoid accidents.   Continued...