The US Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has welcomed Norfolk Southern to a pilot programme testing its Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS), allowing employees to confidentially report unsafe events.
The programme is being enacted in partnership with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division (SMART-TD) and the participation of Norfolk Southern employees in Atlanta, Georgia; Elkhart, Indiana; and Roanoke, Virginia.
Norfolk Southern, which was responsible for the derailment incident in Ohio that preceded the foundation of the C3RS programme, becomes the first Class I freight railroad to join the FRA scheme despite all of the US railroads committing to joining after Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called for their participation last year.
Buttigieg said: “FRA and the US Department of Transportation have been using the full range of our authority to improve rail safety and push the industry to protect their employees, keep the public safe, and keep communities informed.
“Norfolk Southern has taken a good first step, and it’s time for the other Class I railroads to back up their talk with action and make good on their promises to join this close call reporting system and keep America’s rail network safe.”
The year-long pilot programme will see employees reported safety concerns analysed and anonymised by NASA before being presented to a group of Norfolk Southern and labour representatives who will then work with the FRA to address issues raised.
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According to the FRA, the railroad joined the programme after months of discussions with worker representatives to find the first group of employees to participate in the C3RS pilot.
Norfolk Southern joining the C3RS programme is the latest action by the company and the FRA to address rail safety concerns following the toxic derailment in East Palestine Ohio, with the Department of Transportation allocating more than $1bn towards the issue for FY2024.
On the railroad’s side, it began construction of a first responder training centre in East Palestine in September last year, improving the training offered to firefighters and other first responders in the region.
Norfolk Southern president and CEO Alan Shaw said: “We are committed to setting the gold standard for rail safety, and we are proud to be the first Class I railroad to deliver on our promise to co-develop and launch a C3RS programme.”