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U.S. House members introduce RAIL Act

U.S. Reps. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) and Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Ohio) have introduced a bill aimed at reducing train derailments like the one that occurred Feb. 3 in East Palestine, Ohio.

The Reducing Accidents in Locomotives (RAIL) Act would improve rail safety by:

• directing the Federal Railroad Administration, in conjunction with the findings of the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation, to recommend changes to how the nation’s rail system operates, from train length and weight to speed and track standards;
• increasing funding for hazardous materials training for first responders;
• increasing maximum penalties for violations of rail safety regulations;
• increasing inspections on all trains, including those carrying hazardous materials; and
• auditing federal rail inspection programs.

“It is imperative that Congress swiftly works to strengthen our nation’s railway safety standards,” Johnson said in a press release.

The proposed RAIL Act is the second bill introduced in Congress since the Norfolk Southern Railway train derailed in East Palestine, resulting in a massive fire, chemical spill and controlled chemical burn-off that caused an environmental disaster. The railroad has promised to clean up the site and help the community recover from the derailment’s impacts. Earlier this month, U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and JD Vance (R-Ohio) introduced the Railway Safety Act that also calls for increasing federal oversight of rail safety.

The Johnson-Sykes legislation is a “huge development for improving railway safety in this country,” Vance said in a press release.

“In the coming weeks, my top priority will be doing my part to get the Railway Safety Act through the Senate,” he added.

The House bill does differ from the Senate version. For example, the RAIL Act would eliminate the two-man crew rule that the FRA is in the process of developing, The Marietta Times reported.