Single-Person Train Crews, Crumbling Overpasses, and Bomb Trains: Lighting a Fire in Binghamton?

A potential rule change by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) would mandate minimum two-person crews on all trains in the US. While we should all be thankful this rule is being considered (the railway industry is mobilized against the rule change), the fact that such a rule is necessary, because one person crews are charged with 3 mile long trains full of all manner of chemicals and cargo, should be disturbing.

For the past decade railway companies, large and small, have been installing single person crews, to the horror of railway towns and railroad worker unions. In the era of bomb-trains, trains loaded with super-explosive fracked oil from North Dakota and beyond, and derelict railway infrastructure, the use of single-person crews should be of even greater concern. Although New York has banned fracking, bomb-trains and cars carrying all manner of hazardous material still chug through our river valley.

Railroad companies do not pay property taxes (the actual lines are titular, owned by the Broome County Industrial Development Agency), and are completely unaccountable to the communities they pass through, yet their dangerous cargo has huge potential impacts for all of us who live near rail lines. Railway companies also do not have to make local authorities aware when a train derails.

The deficiencies of single-crews are linked to the death of a train operator in Selkirk, NY (outside Albany) several years ago, and to the Lac-Megantic disaster that leveled an entire Canadian town, killing 47. Operator fatigue is rampant throughout the railway industry thanks to constantly shifting schedules that don’t take the limits of human activity into account and only consider profit. Two-person crews are often the only thing standing between a smooth ride and disaster.

Binghamtonians must stand with the Railway Workers United (RWU) against greedy corporate interests. RWU has been fighting against the implementation of single crews by the nation’s seven largest companies and are proponents of the new NTSB rule. Their initiative is supported by a number of environmental justice groups like the Sunflower Alliance.                                                                                         For more information check out http://railroadworkersunited.org. You can also contact the regional distributor for Highball, the RWU newsletter, Rick Sprout via email: sprout@upstate.edu for a hard copy.

 

 

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