News Briefs

FBI: U.S. rail line targeted for attacks

Al-Qaida is targeting the nation's railroads for terrorism so it can disrupt the nation's economy, according to FBI officials.

The threat has become so real that on May 7, the FBI issued an alert when equipment capable of derailing a train was stolen from an east Texas rail yard.

Fears of an attack on strategic points along America's railroads were reinforced on September 11 with the release of a study on threats to rail by the RAND Corp., the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. and Orange County rail officials.

Possible terrorist acts include putting a bomb on a train to cause havoc in the rail system or tampering with the rail lines to cause a derailment, according to the study.

The study suggests that the nation concentrate its counterterrorism efforts along strategic corridors in Los Angeles, New York, Las Vegas, Houston and Chicago, said Wally Baker, senior vice president of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

The study calls on the federal government to fund training for emergency teams that would respond to a rail disaster. The Association of American Railroads already operates a facility in Pueblo, Colo., to teach emergency personnel how to handle rail accidents, said John Bromley, spokesman for Union Pacific.

(The Press-Enterprise of Riverside, Calif., contributed to this report.)

CSX worker wins $2.74 million case

A Jefferson Circuit Court jury awarded $2.74 million to a CSX Transportation employee September 10, finding the railroad company negligent in allowing him to be exposed to toxic solvents that led to brain damage.

Troy Moody worked in what was the Louisville & Nashville Railroad's south Louisville shops, where locomotives were cleaned with solvents, for about four years beginning in 1978, according to court records and his wife, Janet Moody.

Moody, 51, and his attorney argued that CSX exposed Moody and other employees to toxic solvents, even though they knew that the chemicals could cause brain damage.

In his closing argument, an attorney for CSX said that Moody's brain damage wasn't caused by exposure to the solvents and denied that CSX failed to protect its workers from any known hazard.

The CSX attorney contended that if solvents had caused the brain damage, the effects would have been immediate.

Jurors voted 9-3 that negligence by CSX - not Moody - was a cause of the brain damage. The jury awarded Moody $200,000 for future medical expenses, $540,000 for future lost wages, and $2 million for past and future pain and suffering.

(The Louisville, Ky., Courier-Journal contributed to this report.)

Study: BNSF one of five worst companies for employee privacy

IBM Corporation is ranked best for employee workplace privacy and Burlington Northern Santa Fe one of the worst among the largest publicly traded companies, according to research conducted by WIRED magazine.

"Ranking Privacy at Work" in the October 2003 issue reports that with tools like e-mail and Internet monitoring, keystroke tracking and even genetic testing, on-the-job spying has never been more common or effective.

According to WIRED's findings, Burlington Northern Santa Fe ranks with Eli Lilly, Wal-Mart, New York Times Company, and Hilton Hotels as one of the five worst. It ranked Eli Lilly as the worst.

BNSF scored near the bottom for illegally testing workers for genetic defects. In May of 2002, BNSF paid $2.2 million in damages to 36 workers who said they were genetically tested without their knowledge by the railroad as part of a comprehensive medical exam after filing claims for carpal tunnel syndrome. Most were maintenance of way workers.

The five best companies are IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Ford, Baxter Healthcare and Sears.

(From Wired Magazine)

Hurricane Isabel hits Eastern U.S. railroads

As much as the railroads in the path of Hurricane Isabel would like to return to normal service, flooding and electrical outages are still interrupting schedules.

As this Newsletter went to press, Amtrak was still experiencing delays between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore due to high water at Landover, Md. As of September 24, the water had receded to a level that enabled Amtrak to restore full service on two tracks.

On its Harrisburg Line, Amtrak reported several downed trees blocking tracks and affecting overhead power lines. Passengers were notified that they may expect significant delays between Philadelphia and Harrisburg until further notice.

Local power outages have played havoc with scheduling and train operations because of concerns about grade-crossing protection. Norfolk Southern and CSX have placed hundreds of portable generators in North Carolina and Virginia to power crossing gates and flashers. CSX has managed to reopen all of its lines with the exception of the one from Garysburg, N.C., to Portsmouth, Va., which it hoped to have in service by September 24.


UP told to get safety back on track in California

Responding to a series of recent accidents and near misses involving Union Pacific trains in California - including two in September when freight cars almost crashed into Metrolink trains in Los Angeles - state officials criticized the Omaha-based railroad and called on it to improve its safety practices.

"We do not appreciate trains in our rivers, our backyards or running uncontrolled through our neighborhoods, our intersections and past our schools," said Richard Clark, director of rail safety for the Public Utilities Commission.

On June 20, a UP train broke loose at a rail yard in Montclair and traveled out of control for about 30 miles at speeds greater than 80 mph before derailing in a Commerce neighborhood. Nobody was killed, but the derailment crushed several houses.

Since then, Clark said, UP trains have been involved in five more serious incidents in California.

The PUC is so concerned about UP's performance in California that Clark and PUC board President Michael Peavey held an emergency telephone meeting last week with the head of the Federal Railroad Administration and Union Pacific's operations director.

During the phone call, Clark said, he and Peavey told UP that the commission would step up its monitoring of the company's tracks and trains in California, and that UP should do more to prevent accidents or near misses.

(From the Los Angeles Times)



© 2003 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers