NTSB Returning for New Investigation; Norfolk Southern Releases Safety Plan

(The Center Square) – The National Transportation and Safety Board is expected back in Ohio to investigate the fourth Norfolk Southern train derailment in the state in the past five months.

Investigators plan to arrive in Springfield, Ohio following the Saturday derailment of a 212-car cargo train. Twenty-eight of the cars derailed. There were no injuries. Norfolk Southern, state and federal officials said hazardous materials were not involved in the derailment.

Another Norfolk Southern train derailed in Sandusky on Oct. 11, and in early November 13 cars from a Norfolk Southern train derailed in Steubenville, Ohio.

However, the Feb. 3 derailment of cars carrying hazardous materials in East Palestine, Ohio has gained the most attention. Residents remain concerned about air and water quality; federal, state and independent testing has shown no containments related to the derailment.

The Springfield derailment came two days before Norfolk Southern released a six-point safety plan Monday in response to the NTSB’s report following the East Palestine derailment.

“Reading the NTSB report makes it clear that meaningful safety improvements require a comprehensive industry effort that brings together railcar and tank car manufacturers, railcar owners and lessors, and the railroad companies,” Norfolk President and CEO Alan Shaw said. “We are eager to help drive that effort and we are not waiting to take action.”

The plan calls for enhancing the hot bearing detector network while working on next-generation detectors. It also includes reviewing industry practices for hot bearing detectors, deploying more acoustic bearing detectors, accelerate the company’s digital train inspection program and join the e-Federal Railroad Administration’s Confidential Close Call Reporting System.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, called the company’s incidents unacceptable and for passage of the Railway Safety Act of 2023, which he and Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, introduced last week.

“Sandusky, Steubenville, East Palestine, and now Springfield – four Norfolk Southern derailments in less than five months because this corporation has been more concerned with its profit margin than with Ohioans’ safety,” Brown said. “Ohio communities should not be forced to live in fear of another disaster. It’s unacceptable – it’s why we must pass my bipartisan Railway Safety Act with Senator Vance, now.”

As previously reported by The Center Square, that legislation would strengthen safety measures for trains carrying hazardous material and require at least a two-person crew on trains, among other things.

— J.D. Davidson

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The Center Square was launched in May 2019 to fulfill the need for high-quality statehouse and statewide news across the United States. The focus of our work is state- and local-level government and economic reporting. A taxpayer sensibility distinguishes our work from other coverage of state and local issues.