OMAHA, Nebraska (AP) — Federal inspectors said they found a worrying number of flaws in the locomotives and railcars being used by Union Pacific this summer at the world’s largest railyard in western Nebraska, and the railroad is ordering fixes to the problems. Was reluctant.
Federal Railway Administrator Amit Bose wrote a letter UP’s top three officials expressed their concern Friday, saying the flaws represent a “significant risk to rail safety” at the Union Pacific Railroad.
The 19.93% defect rate on rail cars and the 72.69% rate for locomotives that inspectors found in July and August are both double the national average, Bosse said. But the letter did not detail what kinds of deficiencies inspectors found at the Bailey Yard in North Platte, and there are countless federal regulations in place.
“The compliance of rolling stock (goods cars and locomotives) on the UP network is poor, and UP was unwilling or unable to take steps to improve the condition of its equipment,” Bose said in his letter.
Bosse questioned whether the recent layoff of 94 locomotive craft workers and 44 carmen at the Omaha, Nebraska-based railroad, one of the nation’s largest, left UP without enough people to complete needed repairs. Has gone.
Union Pacific spokeswoman Kristen South said Sunday that the layoffs are not a problem and that the railroad is committed to safety.
“Union Pacific will never compromise the safety of our employees. Safety is always our first priority, and we are reviewing and will address the concerns raised by FRA,” South said.
Rail safety has been a major concern across the country this year, since a train derailed and caught fire in eastern Ohio at another railroad, Norfolk Southern, in February. The East Palestine derailment prompted regulators and members of Congress to call for reforms, but few significant changes have been made since then.
South said the railroad has appropriate staffing levels with sufficient capacity to have “a buffer to allow for the natural ebb and flow of the nature of our business.”
The layoffs that UP announced late last month came after the FRA completed its inspection, and they represent a small portion of the railways’ workforce, which numbers more than 30,000.
Union Pacific’s new CEO Jim Vena took over the top job at the railway just last month. Union Pacific has a network of 32,400 miles (52,000 km) of track in 23 western states.
Josh Funk, The Associated Press