• How safe are US Railroads??

  • General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.
General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.

Moderator: Robert Paniagua

  by Chafford1
 
I was looking at some US Railroad videos on You Tube and came across the Southwest Chief travelling at 90mph along a line with no fencing or barriers.

Isn't there a safety issue here which need to be addressed!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWg8rr3r39Y

  by .Taurus.
 
serious, what's the problem?

its open landscape, not in an urban area, and also there's a grass verge between raod and tracks.

did you only feel save when everything is behind fences and barriers resp everything is separate by fences and barriers ?

  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Until Ms. Bly has the opportunity to respond and share whatever knowledge she has and is at liberty to address regarding contemporary railroad industry safety, let it suffice that the industry, considering the substantial increase in traffic enjoyed - much of which is HAZMAT, along with many fewer "boots on the ground' (when I was in the industry during the '70's, there were some 650,000 employees; today it is less than 200,000), is safer today than it has been in the past.
Last edited by Gilbert B Norman on Sat Apr 12, 2008 1:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

  by Chafford1
 
Forgive me for raising this, but it contrasts markedly with railways in the UK where railways are always fenced off with warning signs. Even if the trains and tracks are safe, there's nothing to keep children away from the tracks.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOjifmVIY9I

  by Jishnu
 
Chafford1 wrote:Forgive me for raising this, but it contrasts markedly with railways in the UK where railways are always fenced off with warning signs. Even if the trains and tracks are safe, there's nothing to keep children away from the tracks.
It is indeed unusual to find fencing along railroad tracks in most places. The again it is also unusual to hear about stray children getting killed on tracks.

OTOH, in areas where tracks are fenced it is not unusual to find crafty people breaking the fence down and getting onto the tracks and getting killed. The North East Corridor is notorious for that.

So I guess it is not clear that taking the trouble to erect fences makes things clearly safer. It does however give the railroads a slightly better chance in courts when someone does get hit, though whether even that happens is debatable.

So in balance I guess the railroads have figured out that the cost of fencing tracks which do not carry high speed traffic is not worth it overall.
  by NellieBly
 
Well, first take a look here:

http://safetydata.fra.dot.gov/OfficeofS ... nyr1a.aspx

The Railroad Accident/Incident Reporting System (RAIRS) is available on FRA's Web site, and anybody can run reports. The link above will show the most recent ten years. Reportable "accidents/incidents" (see site for definitions) declined 22% over the period. So the trend is in the right direction, and has been for most of the 31 years I've been in the industry. It's a lot safer than it was in 1977, and it was actually pretty safe then.

So that's one answer.

As far as worker fatalities are concerned, railroading is about in the middle of any list of industries. Fishing and lumbering are at the top of the list, office workers at the bottom. So I answer the question, "Are railroads safe?" with, "Safer than what?"

Rail/highway crossing accidents have been on a long decline, but "trespasser" fatalities have been rising in the past few years. Nobody's sure what to do about it, because the definition of trespasser is someone who has no reason to be there. Will fences keep them out? Probably not.

A friend of mine once worked as a trainmaster at Oak Point Yard in the Bronx. He had a contractor build a thousand foot long fence at the edge of the yard to prevent looters from breaking into and stealing from freight cars. The contractor finished the job on a Friday. On Monday morning someone had cut down the fence posts and removed the entire fence without a trace. Welcome to New York!

Roads are mostly unfenced, and we deal with it by ensuring that our children don't play in traffic. I do believe that where rail transit and railroads share a right of way (but not track) fences should separate the two systems, simply to prevent maintenance workers or transit riders from inadvertently wandering where they shouldn't be. But the fence won't stop derailed freight cars from fouling the transit ROW. You need intrusion detection for that.

So it's complicated. But I feel confident in saying a couple of things:

1) railroad are the safest way to move land freight
2) railroads in North America are substantially safer (by many indicators) than railroads just about anywhere else.
  by wigwagfan
 
MODERATOR'S NOTE:

Moved to General Discussion: Railroad Operations & Facilities.

This isn't quite Amtrak specific.

Thanks.

  by David Benton
 
Perhaps fencing is more of an english tradition .
Here in NZ , the railroad is always fenced . probably more to keep livestock than people off the railroad . with our lighter equipment , and some of the backcountry bulls / pigs been pretty tough , its not unusual to here of a loco been disabled from hitting an animal . usually by knocking an airhose etc off . i remember the main trunk railcar been unable to coninue after hitting a sheep once . knocked some control wire off .
more to do with tradtion , houses and other urban properites are almost always fenced . possibly again harking back to early days when livestock were drove through towns to get to the stockyards . By contrast railway yards are usually unfenced .

  by Gilbert B Norman
 
While the linked Friday's New York Times editorial relates to the air transport industry's current maintenance deficiencies, it does indeed relate to "our" industry as well.

While the transportation industry has largely been deregulated with regards to rates since "the '80's" (they should be), regulation with regards to safety continues (it should). As the editorial points out, both the airlines and their "overseer" have been cutting corners. While there have been no reported incidents regarding flight safety arising from the deficiencies, that the 'laxity" on part of both "regulated and regulator' has cut into the margin of safety.

The impact to the railroad industry could be more stringent "FRA directives'; some could have substance, but more likely than not, they would simply comprise "chicken s^it" (anyone else who has been in Service care to translate?). Even though the safety deficiencies do not (yet) relate to the railroad industry, they could be used as a wedge by those groups, such as small shippers that believe they have been discriminated against as a result of the "Big Four" (and of course the "lesser three') consolidations, to presage "rereg" of rates and service.

Food for thought before (if applicable) church, the still civil broadcast network talk shows, and The Masters:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/11/opinion/11fri1.html

  by David Benton
 
I don't think he shippers are looking for re regulation (as Mr Philips pointed out in his "trains" byword ), more they want free market competition to give them fair rates .
how they would use airline safety issues to achieve this , i'm not sure .

  by scharnhorst
 
Chafford1 wrote:Forgive me for raising this, but it contrasts markedly with railways in the UK where railways are always fenced off with warning signs. Even if the trains and tracks are safe, there's nothing to keep children away from the tracks.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOjifmVIY9I
even with fences kids still find ways to cut holes in them to get from point A to B dose not matter if there is a bridge going over the tracks people in this day in age are to lazy to back rack a few hundred feet to cross the tracks on a bridge when they can just cross them infrount of or behind there homes to get to where they want to go.

I can think of 1 location near me where there is a bridge that crosses the tracks and there are steps that go up the side of the bridge approch for people to use to cross the tracks. The thing is no one uses them and there closed off during the winter months becouse the town, city, or countys don't have the time or man power to clean them. During the summer months there covered with broken glass which also stops people from useing them.

  by NV290
 
The last thing we need in this country around tracks is more fences, What we need is more common sense.

Fences cost alot to install, maintain and limit wildlife from moving about as well as limiting access for emergency and maintenance crews. And ultimatley, they will not help. At every station and/or road crossing anybody can enter the ROW. There is no effective way to do it.

Adults need to take responsibility for their own actions and teach there kids where NOT to walk.

I don't try and walk across or down the middle of highways because i know it's dangerous. The same applies for railroads. If your dumb enough to do it, quite frankly you deserve what you get.

  by Plate F
 
^ Agreed!

  by Conrail Tweety
 
Unfortunately, fences hold wildlife in just as well as holding out. When an animal panics as a train approaches, it will likely try to cross the tracks since the fence is preventing it from running further away from the tracks.

  by slchub
 
Can you imagine the cost to install and maintain fence along the thousands of miles of "open" rails in the deserts of the western US?

There are times where I travel from just outside the city limits of Salt Lake City to Winnemucca, NV (about 380 miles) and don't see a single car at any of the crossings.