Industry News Briefs

Judge delays derailment trial

The trial of a 21-year-old man accused of causing a fatal train derailment has been put on hold for one month.

Andrew Goltz was scheduled to plead guilty to causing the Aug. 26, 2000, derailment that led to the death of conductor Brad Davis and severe injuries to locomotive engineer Dennis Baum, employees of the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad.

However, a guilty plea would mean Goltz could face a mandatory sentence of life in prison. U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol gave Goltz and his attorneys one month to present written arguments. Piersol said he couldn't accept the plea until Goltz knows what penalty he could face.

Goltz has admitted to investigators that he broke a lock off the DM&E switch, moved it and covered a warning reflector with a plastic garbage bag. The diverted track caused a train to plow into parked boxcars, killing Davis and injuring Baum.

Goltz told investigators that he switched the tracks as a prank, but later argued that he was too drunk and high to waive his rights to talk to police without a lawyer. At the time of the derailment, Goltz said he was taking 20 to 30 over-the-counter motion sickness pills. He said the purposeful overdose produced a hallucinogenic effect.


House panel rebukes FRA

On April 25, members of a Congressional Subcommittee voiced frustration with the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) slow implementation of a loan program created to provide federal assistance for badly needed rail infrastructure improvements.

The Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) Program was established as part of 1998's Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA 21) and authorizes $3.5 billion in direct and guaranteed loans for rail equipment and infrastructure.

As written, $1 billion of that total is dedicated to smaller (Class II and Class III) railroads. Since TEA 21's passage, however, regulations enacted by the previous Administration, as well as a June 23, 2000, memo between the Department of Transportation and the Office of Management and Budget, have crippled the effectiveness of the loan program. Funds have yet to be provided in any Presidential budget proposal to support the program.

The program must be made operative immediately, Chairman Don Young said.


Hackers shut down STB website

Hackers knocked the Surface Transportation Board's website offline on April 30, leaving it unable to post railroad decisions or use e-mail.

The site was still down five days after the initial incident.

The STB is responsible for oversight of the nation's railroad industry, and sends out rulings on mergers and other railroad activities daily. Their e-mail list has over 2,000 subscribers.

The site also contains news releases, economic statistics and past decisions. It is not known whether any information on the site was altered or destroyed.

STB and government investigators do not yet know who is responsible for the attack, or from what country it originated.


CSX annual report reveals value of Conway deal

When we last heard of Ronald J. Conway, he was leaving CSX Corp. nearly a year ago as it grappled with safety issues and falling profits.

Conway, a former Conrail Inc. executive, joined CSX amid high hopes he could lead a smooth transition with his old company.

But the whole Eastern rail system got jammed up after the Conrail merger, and Conway became the fall guy.

Last April, Conway left CSX's Jacksonville, Fla., office after profits plummeted.

At the time, there was speculation about how much the company paid Conway to leave. But nobody was saying just how sweet the deal was.

That changed last week when CSX disclosed it paid Conway at least $1.2 million in cash and stock in a severance agreement. It also increased his pension by 15 percent.

The deal was confidential until it was disclosed in CSX's annual report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The package included $1 million in a combination of cash, stock and a bonus. Conway got another 9,490 shares around June 30, when the stock was trading at $21.19, or about $200,000.


NS defends plan to shut Holidaysburg Car Shop

Norfolk Southern Corp. defended its plans to close a rail car repair shop that employs 320 people, breaking the promise it made two years ago to keep the shop open.

The Hollidaysburg Car Shop is on NS's Death Row. NS says the facility is a drain, tapping $7 million from the company last year.

When Conrail was divided two years ago, NS's take included the Hollidaysburg shop. Now, Hollidaysburg is scheduled for shutdown Sept. 1.

But rail labor charges that NS promised to keep work flowing into the shop and to make capital investments, including $4 million at Hollidaysburg - one promise all sides agree was never kept.

The company acknowledged that it promised to invest $4 million at the shop, saying that making it now, in sight of the shutdown, would make poor economic sense.

 

2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers