Senate commerce panel to hold hearing on rail safety

McClatchy InteractiveFebruary 6, 2014 


A railroad tank car is surrounded by locomotives in the Norfolk Southern rail yard at Alexandria; Va., on Jan. 13. 2014. Recent fiery derailments have called renewed attention to the safety of the majority of North America's tank car fleet, which has a long history of punctures and ruptures in accidents.


The Senate Commerce Committee announced Thursday that it would hold a hearing on rail safety next week, following a series of derailments in the past year involving commuter trains and trains carrying crude oil.

The committee last looked at the subject in June, a month before a train of crude oil derailed and ignited in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people and destroying the town's center. 

Two more fiery derailments involving crude oil trains in November and December in Alabama and North Dakota have raised the stakes as the growing volume of crude oil moves across the continent by rail.

Derailments of two Metro-North commuter trains in Connecticut in May and New York in December brought attention to passenger rail safety as well. Four were killed and 60 were injured in the December accident, when a New York-bound train jumped the tracks in the Bronx.

The witnesses testifying at next week's hearing were not announced by the committee Thursday. But a spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration confirmed that one of the witnesses would be that agency's head, Joe Szabo.

Szabo testified at last June's hearing, along with Deborah Hersman, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, and Ed Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads.

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