The recent rail disaster in E. Palestine, Ohio, occurred despite a history of rail unions calling for improved safety equipment and regulations to protect crews and the public. Unfortunately, the warnings were not heeded. In E. Palestine, rail crew and communities have suffered potentially grievous harm and long term adverse effects.
The people on the ground, those who operate systems and equipment, are often more knowledgeable than those who have only a theoretical expertise. Decision-makers bend to political and corporate pressure all too frequently when cost-cutting is the imperative.
Astonishing as it seems, The Guardian reports it has audio evidence of a Union Pacific rail yard manager being told by a supervisor not to report safety issues. If true, alarms should be ringing throughout the government and rail industry.
Political leaders who have called upon Norfolk Southern, the company that operated the train which derailed in Ohio, to answer questions are not going far enough. A community has been devastated. Environmental damage extends to a great distance from the wreck. Compensation, reclamation and healthcare should be available to all those impacted by the disaster.
Positive steps to protect employees, the public and the community must be taken. The safety concerns expressed by railway workers must be taken seriously as they have the experience to identify problems.
Immediately Congress should pass the bipartisan Railway Safety Act of 2023. It is a measure designed to create a safe and efficient rail network in the United States and to curb the excesses of a profit driven rail industry.