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US to conduct safety review of all major railroads -letter

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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Biden administration will conduct safety assessments of all major U.S. railroads following the Feb. 3 derailment of a Norfolk Southern operated train in Ohio, according to a letter seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) reviews were sought by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and will be similar to a recently completed review of Norfolk Southern’s safety culture practices, and compliance after the train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, catching fire and releasing over a million gallons of hazardous materials and pollutants.

FRA Administrator Amit Bose told Schumer the agency in a previously unreported letter the agency will conduct assessments on each major railroad over the next year and it plans to release “an overarching final report assessing issues, trends, and commonalities across all railroads reviewed.”

Bose’s letter said each major railroad will be asked to “develop corrective actions in response to FRA’s recommendations, and FRA will track those to completion.”

Schumer’s office said the actions of the past few months “make it clear that the freight rail industry has perpetuated a culture of cost-cutting and shortcuts that has led to horrific damages in communities, injured workers, and even death.”

A major rail trade group did not immediately comment.

Schumer said “these reports by the FRA will be a good first step to identifying the problems that persist in individual companies as well as what endemic problems permeate across the whole industry.”

Last month, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee approved rail safety legislation that tightens rules on trains carrying explosive substances. The bill would mandate the use of technology that can identify equipment failures; prevent cursory railcar inspections; and require stronger safety regulations for trains carrying explosive material like the Norfolk Southern train that derailed in Ohio.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chris Reese and Nick Zieminski)

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