The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today told Congress that private capital investments made over the past 30 years by the nation's freight railroads have helped propel the industry's enviable safety record. Testifying on behalf of AAR, Norfolk Southern Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Mark Manion told members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that the rail industry's record safety achievements are due in large part to the commitment and tremendous resources freight railroads put into constantly improving safety.
"For Norfolk Southern and America's other freight and passenger railroads, safe operations are an imperative," Manion said, noting the industry has made massive investments in safety- enhancing infrastructure, equipment and technology, as well as employee training and cooperative programs with other safety stakeholder groups like labor unions, customers and federal regulators.
"Nothing is more important to our nation's freight railroads than the safety of their employees, customers, and the communities they serve, as demonstrated by the scope of the industry's safety efforts," he added.
At the Hill hearing on the status of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, Manion said Congress passed the most costly federal mandate in U.S. railroad history - a $13.2 billion price tag and a 20-to-one cost-benefit ratio - which will require railroads to deploy positive train control (PTC) technology by 2015 on lines handling certain types of hazardous materials and passenger operations. "The cause of safety will not be advanced if resources are directed to programs or requirements that siphon resources that would have a more pronounced impact on safety if spent elsewhere," he said. "It is short sighted to put such enormous emphasis on one technology, when less costly, more effective alternatives exist for reducing the risk of accidents."
Following the issuance of FRA's final rule for implementing PTC, AAR filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, seeking to change certain aspects of the rule. Earlier this month, FRA agreed to undertake a review of the rules, and the suit was put on hold.
"FRA's review of the final PTC rule provides the Obama Administration a great opportunity to make good on its Executive Order to identify and change regulations that are preventing job growth and economic recovery," said AAR's President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger. "Given the vast amounts of private capital and resources that will be required to meet the PTC mandate, much will depend on how the revised rules are ultimately shaped."
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