Belen, N.M., becomes 13th city to pass remote control resolution

The city of Belen, N.M., is the 13th U.S. city to take action against remote control locomotives, adopting a resolution to ban their operation within city limits until certain safety requirements are met.

Twelve other cities and seven counties in the U.S. have adopted similar resolutions against remote control locomotives.

The resolution, which the Belen City Council passed on April 7, blocks the implementation of the remote control technology until BNSF can prove it meets safety standards set by the city. The resolution also requests that in the interest of public safety, the Federal Railroad Administration develop comprehensive regulations for the use of remote control locomotives.

"We got word that there was a possibility that the railroad will bring remote control operations here. We did check into it with different newsletters and the Internet, and right now it's not something we are comfortable doing," Belen Mayor Ronnie Torres told the Valencia County News-Bulletin.

The safety of trains that come through the city, including those carrying dangerous chemicals, Torres said, poses a concern for the public's safety.

"There are dangerous chemicals that come through here everyday," Torres said. "I'd rather have people who are trained watching the trains until it can be proven that it is safe."

A group of railroad employees, including members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and the United Transportation Union, provided safety information to the Belen City Council regarding remote control operations, which prompted the resolution.

The resolution states that no railroad shall operate remote control locomotives until all of the following safety conditions are met:

1. Any railroad operating a remote control locomotive must notify the Office of the Mayor before implementing such operations.

2. Remote control locomotives cannot be used to transport hazardous materials, switch cars containing hazardous materials, or switch other cars on or near tracks occupied by hazardous materials.

3. Remote control locomotives cannot be operated over or under a public or private highway rail crossing without a person occupying the cab of the locomotive who has the required skills to stop the locomotive and its attached equipment.

4. A railroad must provide effective and reliable protection at the point of movement in any location accessible to the general public for any remote control operation.

A copy of the resolution is available on the BLE website at:

(The Valencia News-Bulletin contributed to this report.)


© 2003 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers