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Greenville, OBX & Rocky Mount, North Carolina

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Rick Shapiro
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Recent North Carolina CSX Derailment Shines Light On Damaged Railroad Ties

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Officials with CSX have announced that a train that derailed last Saturday afternoon in Fayetteville, NC did so on tracks which appear to have some underlying issues. The crash, which happened in downtown Fayetteville along Russell Street, caused four of the 10 rail cars to leave the tracks, though none overturned or exploded. Thankfully officials say the cars were not carrying hazardous materials at the time of the accident and no one was injured.

Shortly after the crash, CSX says it began replacing railroad ties that it discovered were split, rotten and even missing in the immediate vicinity of the accident site. Officials also say they noticed that there were a number of railroad spikes, which hold the railroad ties in place, that were either missing or in the wrong position.

A spokesperson with the company says that maintenance had already been scheduled along the Fayetteville line, but would not say whether that maintenance was due to the deteriorated condition of the railroad ties. The company spokesperson says that the repairs taking place have not been found to be the cause of the derailment and say that it might take weeks to know for sure what caused the train to jump the tracks.

The Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration will not investigate the incident because it did not meet the agency’s criteria. Before the FRA will get involved, the derailment must result in death or serious injuries, damages of over $1 million or involve the release of hazardous materials.

The recent derailment in Fayetteville is the second such incident for a CSX train in the region so far this year. Back in February, another CSX train carrying ammonia derailed in nearby Bladenboro, NC. Eight cars overturned which sparked the evacuation of hundreds of nearby homes. The FRA did launch an investigation in that case and released a report in May, which blamed the derailment on a broken rail.

It’s troubling that poor track maintenance was found to be responsible for the February crash and that only a few months later another accident occurred in the same region. Though it can be expensive to maintain railroad tracks, it is vitally important that railroad ties and other railroad equipment be regularly inspected and replaced. Though the accident in this case was not serious and did not result in any injuries, there’s no way to know what harm similarly damaged track could cause in the future.

When one thinks about how railroads operate, track is one of the most vital structures and therefore the railroad has special equipment that travels over the tracks and can electronically monitor to spot any potential defects. CSX has its own special cars, and contracts with outside services to do so as well.

Anyone suffering property damage or personal injury in an accident like this, where there has been suspicious track maintenance, should request all prior track inspection information relating to the area. Also, the railroads like to be efficient, and often only do maintenance when it is absolutely necessary. Whether any such failure to maintain has anything to do with this accident is unknown at this point.

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