Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg announced this morning that broken rail was the cause of a CSX Transportation/Plains All American crude-oil train derailment in West Virginia earlier this year. She also announced steps to prevent similar accidents.
The broken rail resulted from a vertical split head rail defect. The defect that eventually led to the derailment was missed by CSX and its contractor, Sperry Rail Service, on two separate inspections in the months leading up to the accident, FRA officials said in a press release.
On Feb. 16, the train derailed in Mount Carbon, W.Va., spilling more than 300,000 gallons of oil. A fire that resulted from the incident burned for several days, requiring area residents to evacuate.
The FRA also announced it would release a safety advisory to urge railroads to pursue closer and more detailed inspections where defects and flaws are suspected, as well as stronger training for rail inspection vehicle operators.
Also, the FRA will explore the need for rail-head standards and potentially require railroads to slow trains or replace rail when certain conditions pose a safety risk.
Additionally, the agency secured a commitment from CSX to require internal rail flaw operators to review previous inspection data alongside real-time data in order to assist in identifying conditions and flaws that have changed or worsened between inspections.
The FRA has issued $25,000 fines against both CSX and Sperry Rail Service for failure to verify a potential rail defect.
“Broken rail is one of the leading causes of accidents,” Feinberg said. “Railroads moving crude and other hazardous materials through and alongside communities bear significant and special responsibility. All railroads, not just CSX, must be more diligent when inspecting for internal rail flaws or when contracting out inspection work.”
The announcement is the FRA’s latest effort to improve the safety of rail transportation of crude oil and other flammable liquids.