Thursday, March 09, 2023
Railroad accidents have been increasing, especially at Norfolk Southern, but have decreased along some big lines
|Energy & Environment News graph; click to enlarge|
“The country’s major freight railroads were becoming more dangerous even before the train wreck in East Palestine, Ohio, that sparked a chemical fire and weeks of political controversy,” Mike Lee and Ellie Borst report for Energy & Environment News.
The reporters found that Norfolk Southern Corp., which had the derailment, had the largest increase in its accident rate from 2013 to 2022, rising 81 percent. Overall, the seven “Class 1” railroads “had 27 percent more accidents,” E&E News reports, noting, “The increased accident rate comes as the chemical industry predicts a rise in the amount of chemicals that will be shipped by rail, trucks and other forms of transportation,” and that most accidents involve trucks, which handle most of the chemical freight.
The American Association of Railroads told E&E News that the data include minor collisions in train yards and that “main line” accidents are becoming fewer. “If you were going to look at the main line accidents … 2022 was the lowest year in history overall,” said Mike Rush, the lobby’s senior vice president of operations and safety.
“Looking strictly at on-rail accidents, three of the freight railroads — Norfolk Southern, CSX Corp. and Union Pacific Corp. — had higher rates over the last 10 years,” Lee and Borst report. “Norfolk Southern had one of the lowest accident rates in 2013 and now has the second highest behind Union Pacific . . . The accident rates at Union Pacific, CSX and Norfolk Southern are far lower than they were in the 1970s and ‘80s, but they also show a stark contrast to the other four Class 1 railroads — BNSF, Canadian National, Kansas City Southern and Canadian Pacific — where accident rates fell between 5 percent and 65 percent over the last decade.”