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DOT targets safety in Conrail carve-up

DOT has announced that it will focus on the proposed merging railroads' plans for train control systems, training and quality control at dispatch centers; train inspections and identification of hazmat; and hours of service for train crews.

DOT plans to submit its comments on the proposed merger in February. Their comments will address safety as well as any competitive concerns they may have on the merger. ·

Conrail, Penn Central ned $7 million by U.S.

Conrail and Penn Central Corporation will reimburse the federal government $7 million for costs associated in cleaning up contaminated soil and hazardous materials at the yard in Elkhart, Ind. The pollutants included carbon tetrachloride, trichlorethylene and trichloroethane. ·

Oregon gets funding for high-speed rail system

The Federal Railroad Administration will provide $5.2 million in funds and technical assistance to the State of Oregon to upgrade equipment and track layout at Union Station in Portland and to expand the Irvin Siding in Eugene. Funding will also be allocated for upgrade of the signaling system between Portland and Vancouver, Wash.

The upgrades will permit simultaneous freight and passenger railroad operations. The Portland-Vancouver line is designated by the U.S. DOT for high-speed train transportation. ·

Positive train control plan under way

Rockwell's Railroad Electronics Business will develop a one-size-fits-all locomotive platform for use with existing and future Positive Train Control technologies. This venture is part of a $500,000 FRA grant, which Conrail administers. Conrail along with its two suitors, CSX and NS, will install a demonstration PTC system along the rail corridor between Harrisburg, Pa. and Manassas, Va. ·

No suit against FRA's 'reasonable' inspectors

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that a shipper cannot sue an FRA inspector for allegedly exceeding his authority during an inspection at an Idaho rail yard.

The Inspector determined that a tank car of liquefied propane gas leased by the shipper did not comply with federal rules regarding marking of vehicles containing hazardous materials.

The tank car was held in the yard for 25 days as a result, causing financial losses to the shipper and its customers. The Court found that public officials enjoy qualified immunity from such lawsuits, and can be held liable only if they take actions that no reasonable officer could have considered reasonable under the circumstances. ·

Hammerschmidt to be re-appointed to NTSB

President Clinton will nominate John Hammerschmidt to a second term at the National Transportation Safety Board. He has served on the Board since June of 1991. ·

Clyburn nominated for vacant seat on STB

President Clinton nominated William Clyburn to the vacant seat on the Surface Transportation Board. Clyburn is counsel to Senator Robb (D-VA) and between 1993 to 1995, was staff counsel to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. If confirmed by the Senate, Clyburn would take the seat left vacant of former STB Commissioner J.J. Simmons whose term expired Dec. 31, 1996. ·

FRA scraps grade-crossing rulemaking

FRA has backed away from its responsibility for clarifying just whose job it is to select and install grade crossing warning devices.

The proposed rule would have made it clear that state agencies are responsible for deciding the type of warning devices required. Railroads would have been prohibited from making their own decisions and acting on them. This decision by the FRA ends its "Easterwood" rulemaking. ·

Highway patrolman to be FRA state liaison

Washington State highway Patrolman Darren Hettinger has been selected to serve as FRA's liaison to state law-enforcement agencies. Hettinger will coordinate FRA's effort to make local law enforcement more aware of the hazards of grade crossings and trespassing on railroad property. ·

DOT report says trucks don't pay their way

The U.S. DOT released its first highway cost allocation study since 1982. It finds that 80,000 pound trucks pay about 76% of their costs associated with highway use (does not include environmental costs). Bigger trucks underpay even more. The most common triple trailer combination, registered at 110,000 lbs. gross weight, pays only 70% of its federal highway costs. ·

FRA issues two safety advisories after crash

In response to the collision between a UP freight train and an unattended runaway locomotive consist near Fort Worth, Texas, on August 20th, the FRA issued two Safety Advisories.

Safety Advisory 97-2 deals with proper securement of unattended locomotives, cars and trains left on sidings or other tracks. FRA recommends that each railroad adopt and implement its own procedures incorporating the following measures with respect to unattended equipment:

1) Place each locomotive, car or train on a track that is protected by a permanent derail or apply a portable derail if available;

2) Apply the appropriate number of hand-brakes on cars; and

3) Fully apply all hand brakes on all unattended locomotives in the consist. If the grade exceeds one-percent, in addition chock or chain the front and back of at lease one pair wheels in the locomotive consist.

Safety Advisory 97-3 provides protection against conflicting train movements when train dispatchers and control operators authorize movements past a stop indication of an absolute signal. FRA recommends that each railroad should have a railroad operating supervisor contact each train dispatcher and control operator, and in a face-to-face meeting, inform them of the circumstances surrounding the UP accident, re-emphasize the importance of complying with existing operating rules and procedures pertaining to the authorization of train or engine movements past a stop indication, and re-emphasize rules and procedures regarding communication between dispatchers and control operators. ·

RRB issues report on current nancial status

The Railroad Retirement Board has submitted its annual report to Congress on the financial condition of the railroad retirement and railroad unemployment insurance systems.

These reports show that by the end of the 1996 fiscal year, the balance of the railroad retirement trust funds was almost $15 billion, while the railroad unemployment insurance system held a balance of about $137 million.

The actuarial valuation was generally favorable and reflected an improvement over the last valuation. It concluded that, barring a sudden, unanticipated, large decrease in railroad employment, no cash-flow problems will arise during the next 20 years.

However, like other railroad retirement financial reports over the last decade, the valuation also indicated that the long-term stability of the system, under its current financing structure, is dependent on future railroad employment levels. ·


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