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NS taps ANS to evaluate safety; NTSB sets June hearing in East Palestine

Norfolk Southern Railway has appointed Atkins Nuclear Secured (ANS), a member of SNC-Lavalin Group, to conduct an independent review of the company’s safety culture.

Reporting directly to NS President and CEO Alan Shaw, ANS will evaluate the railroad’s safety training programs, employee engagement, oversight and monitoring, and communications protocols and practices. Opportunities to improve safety will be implemented in phases, while simultaneously building a roadmap for long-term success, NS officials said in a press release.

ANS has decades of experience, with a focus on the nuclear sector, and is one of the world’s most respected firms composed of safety, security, engineering and project management experts, they added.

“The nuclear industry is the gold standard for industrial safety, and we intend to set the gold standard for the railroad industry,” said Shaw. “Through our discussions with ANS, it became clear that we share a focus on safety and operational excellence. We are confident that ANS is the right partner to help identify opportunities to help strengthen our safety practices.”

The announcement comes in the wake of several NS train derailments, including the Feb. 3 derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. The National Transportation Safety Board this week announced details of its investigative hearing to be held June 22-23 in East Palestine. The hearing will examine the train derailment and subsequent fire and release of hazardous materials. The hearing is part of the NTSB’s ongoing investigation into the derailment.

To be held at East Palestine High School, the hearing will focus on hazard communications and emergency responder preparedness for the initial emergency response; the circumstances that led to the decision to vent and burn five tank cars carrying vinyl chloride; freight car bearing failure modes and wayside detection systems; and tank car derailment damage, crashworthiness and hazardous materials package information.

NTSB investigative hearings gather sworn testimony from witnesses on issues the agency identifies during the investigation. While the investigative hearing is open to the public, only NTSB board members, investigators, scheduled witnesses and parties to the hearing are allowed to participate, NTSB officials said in a press release.

The public is invited to observe the hearing, which will be livestreamed on the NTSB YouTube channel.