Norfolk Southern Railway Company said it strongly disagrees with the National Transportation Safety Board’s determination of probable cause contained in its Accident Report released today for the New Brighton, Pa., derailment. The NTSB said that the Oct. 20, 2006, derailment was caused by an “inadequate rail inspection and maintenance program.”
According to Norfolk Southern, its rail inspection and maintenance program complies with all applicable regulations, and even the NTSB concedes that Norfolk Southern tested more frequently than required by Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regulation.
Norfolk Southern will file a formal petition for reconsideration and modification that will rely, in part, on newly available inspection data supplied to the NTSB last month, but not addressed in the Accident Report. Norfolk Southern’s petition will defend the adequacy of its rail inspection and maintenance program and will seek to correct the record before the NTSB and any misconceptions on the part of the NTSB about that program and its consistency with the regulations.
“We take strong exception to any contention that we failed to perform a continuous search of our rail for internal defects or that our inspection and maintenance program is inadequate. In fact, many of our procedures exceed FRA standards,” said Tim Drake, NS vice president engineering.
“Norfolk Southern used the best available track inspection technology and procedures at the time and used an expert rail defect detection contractor to inspect its rails at a frequency that exceeds FRA requirements. It is highly unlikely that any changes to NS’ technology and procedures could have uncovered the flaw that caused the derailment,” Drake added.
The New Brighton accident resulted in an ethanol spill and fire on a nearby river. There were no injuries. The train’s crew and mechanical condition were not factors, and the railroad’s emergency response system was deemed effective and appropriate.
“Norfolk Southern has the lowest track-caused accident rate among all Class 1 railroads,” Drake said. ”Any suggestion that we short-cut track safety goes against the facts and is counter to our policy and practice.”
Norfolk Southern Corporation (NYSE: NSC) is one of the nation’s premier transportation companies. Its Norfolk Southern Railway subsidiary operates approximately 21,000 route miles in 22 states and the District of Columbia, serving every major container port in the eastern United States and providing superior connections to western rail carriers. Norfolk Southern operates the most extensive intermodal network in the East and is North America’s largest rail carrier of metals and automotive products.
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