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Safest Year in Railroad History


WASHINGTON - Missouri train accidents fell 14 percent during 2006 as compared to the previous year. This is part of a larger nationwide trend that resulted in 2006 being the safest year in the railroad industry’s 175-year history, according to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

"This accomplishment is even more impressive considering that rail traffic was at its highest point in history in 2006,” said Edward R. Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads. “Quite simply, we moved more freight, with fewer accidents.”

Hamberger says the industry’s $8.6 billion investment in the expansion and maintenance of infrastructure and equipment last year had a direct impact on safety.

In addition to witnessing a reduction in train and grade crossing accidents, last year was also the safest year on record for railroad employees in terms of both injury and fatality numbers and rates. FRA data showed that human error – the leading cause of all train accidents – declined 20.2 percent.

“Our employee training programs certainly deserve some of the credit for last year’s tremendous safety record,” said Hamberger. “New employees are put through extensive training programs, often lasting many months, before they are permitted to operate trains or work on track or equipment. And all operating employees – regardless of how long they have been with the railroads – receive daily safety briefings and annual training. The main focus of everything we do is safety.”

Hamberger noted that new technology is also contributing to the improved safety record. “Use of remote control technology in rail yards is reducing the number of accidents previously caused by miscommunication between employees on the ground and locomotive engineers,” he said. “As advanced train control systems are deployed, accidents caused by human error should decline further.”


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