Safety of Train Cars Called Into Question

Lynchburg, VA - NTSB and federal officials announced just last week that changes to rail cars used to transport crude oil are needed to lessen the likelihood of severe accidents. Environmentalists raised concerns saying if a particular airliner crashed six times in ten months; it would be grounded by the NTSB. Well a sixth crash, in ten months happened in Lynchburg Wednesday, and these trains, are still on tracks nation-wide. Could the cars being pulled from the James River, be the same that caused a blast in North Dakota? Or even one, in Canada, back in July that killed 49 people? DOT 111 cars have been used for decades to transport crude oil. They've also been involved in every major oil train explosion during the last year. "We held a forum, I think it was last week, to look at what's happened with these accidents to come up with discussions related to the design of cars" said James Southworth, the NTSB's Lead Investigator on the Lynchburg train derailment. The NTSB said they recognize that 111's are not as safe as they should be, acknowledging that federal regulations, needed to upgrade safety. The cars however, are still the most used to transport oil. "We have a variety of crude oil cars that we use but all of them are up to federal standards that are expected for tank cars transporting this type of material" said Melanie Cost, a representative for CSX. CSX said not only are their cars safe, but the company is spearheading efforts to transform the train industry. "Under an agreement with the AAR and the DOT earlier this year, CSX is implementing some changes including lowered speeds for crude oil shipments, increased track inspections, and increased coordination with local first responders" said Cost. "We have no local authority that I'm aware of to control that" said Kimball Payne, Lynchburg's City Manager. Payne said city officials are unaware of specific chemicals transported via rail through Lynchburg limits. Likewise though, they're unaware of which chemicals are being transported via truck on city streets. Safety concerns he said are real, but likely need to be addressed elsewhere. "The railroad has a right in this city that goes back over 100 years. That's a policy issue that needs to be addressed at the federal level and the state level" he said. CSX described their route through Lynchburg as a key path for them to transport both crude oil and coal. The NTSB investigation will look to discover if bi-weekly track inspections, as CSX claims occurred, were done this week, prior to the wreck.