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U.S. Railroads Warn of System Disruptions

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Abi Reyes2 years ago

U.S. and Canadian railroads have pressured Congress to extend a December 31 deadline for new safety technology on Wednesday. They caution that failure to act may lead to disruptions across the national freight and passenger rail system.

Overview of the Railroad Disruption Warning

In separate September 9-dated letters sent to the Senate Commerce Committee (SCC), BNSF Railway Co, Norfolk Southern Corp, and Canadian Pacific Railway Co said service disruptions may affect shippers across multiple industries, as well as passenger and commuter rail service to major cities from Seattle to Washington, D.C.

At question is a congressionally mandated deadline for railroads to implement positive train control (PTC), which is an advanced safety technology that prevents major accidents.

A six-year transportation bill approved last month will allow Obama’s administration to extend the deadline for up to three years. However, this measure is not expected to be taken up by the House of Representatives.

The three railroads have determined they will not meet the deadline and may need to suspend service from January 1 in order to avoid liabilities for operating outside federal law.

Railroad Accident Statistics

  • According to a publication in Newsweek, railroad-related deaths increased by 6 percent in 2013, rising from 840 death in 2012 to 891.
  • Six of the 2013 deaths were railroad passengers and 20 deaths were employees or contractors.
  • Traffic-railroad collisions accounted for the vast majority of deaths with a persona or vehicle being hit by a train roughly every three hours.


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