Oversight of Passenger and Freight Rail Safety
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
Summary of Subject Matter
Chairman Jeff Denham (R-CA)
Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials
Hearing on “Oversight of Passenger and Freight Rail Safety”
February 26, 2014
It is one of this Subcommittee’s charges to ensure the safe movement of goods and people on our nation’s railroad network, including the movement of hazardous materials.
The Federal Railroad Administration is a data-driven organization that focuses on the safety of the railroad industry, including operations, track, and equipment. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is responsible for the safe transportation of hazardous materials, regardless of mode. And both work together to ensure hazardous materials are transported safely by rail.
I think everyone here today agrees that safety is and should be a priority for each and every railroad. That focus on safety has worked quite well, with 2012 as the safest year on record, and 2013 looking to match or exceed that record.
However, there have been some high profile incidents and major tragedies, and we need to understand what happened to ensure we can take the necessary steps to prevent future accidents. As we’ve seen in the past, though, the answer isn’t always to rush to judgment, but to work together to find solutions that are data-driven and make sense.
For example, after the commuter rail accident in New York, I visited the site of the curve with MTA. They explained how they were able to work with FRA to agree on safety measures to slow trains at certain points on their tracks and ensure the alertness of those operating the trains.
Similarly, I am pleased to hear that the industry and government have been working as partners to find agreement on measures that enhance safety and can be reasonably implemented for the operation of crude trains.
I thank everyone here for coming to discuss their efforts on rail safety and look forward to discussing these important issues with the witnesses.