The tragic derailment of an Amtrak train makes five train accidents so far this year. The Association of American Railroads has boasted that 2014 was “the safest year on record for the railroad industry.” But that claim is under scrutiny and doesn’t hold up.
The New England Center for Investigative Reporting (NECIR) has reviewed federal reports and railroad safety data that suggests that although rail is much safer than it was in recent decades, some indicators of safety have become worse, not better, over the last few years:
- For the last two years, hazardous materials releases have increased.
- Accidents involving fires have doubled since the past year.
And, over the next few years it is expected that derailments will double, according to projections buried in government reports from the same agencies that are currently issuing new safety rules.
NECIR’s findings come on the heels of a media relations push by the railroad industry in response to increased concerns over recent accidents as well as new rules released by the Federal Department of Transportation earlier in the month regulating tank cars carrying crude, ethanol, and other flammable liquids.
Everyone seems to agree on the fact that as more flammable liquids are transported, there will inevitably be more accidents involving quite serious explosions and leaks of these liquids. This is where new federal regulations governing tank cars comes in. While the rules would make tank cars less prone to accidents, it would also allow older, less-safe tank cars to remain in service.
A coalition of environmental groups, including Earthjustice, and others, filed a challenge last week against the Department of Transportation’s new rules in a federal appeals court.
“It doesn’t make sense for an agency to admit that there are sub-standard cars and then let them remain on the rails for up to 10 years,” says Kristen Boyles, an attorney for Earthjustice. “We don’t do that when we regulate other products.”
Our team of railroad accident injury attorneys believes that safety must be priority no. 1 when transporting these potentially-dangerous substances. Allowing older trains to remain in operation is a bad idea. Also, the industry must pick up the pace and fully implement positive train control.