A recent deadly commuter train crash in New York City is reminiscent of the fiery Alabama train derailment last month.Amazingly, the latter resulted in no major injuries, despite the fact that 30 of the train’s 90 cars derailed, with many of those engulfed in flames.
By contrast in New York, at least four people have died and another 60 have been seriously injured.
While investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board are still underway for both incidents, differences in the focus have already begun to emerge. There has been official speculation that the New York City crash will turn out to be at least partially the result of the train reaching high speeds. However, the Alabama derailment may have more to do with the layout of the tracks, and possibly the design of the tank cars.
According to news reports, the Alabama crash occurred in rural Pickens County, nearly three hours north of Montgomery. The crash occurred early on a Friday morning, with the train carrying crude oil from Mississippi, bound for Florida.
The train had been been moving seemingly without issue when it suddenly derailed and caught fire. Officials were quick to rule out factors deemed relevant in a similar oil train crash earlier this year in Canada, which killed 47 people. Those factors included speed, lacking the appropriate number of engineers (one instead of two) and brake failure.
Instead, investigators appear to be zeroing in on the possibility that the infrastructure itself – including the quality of the tracks and cars – was to blame.
Here’s what we know: The oil-by-rail trade has thrived in recent years, as crude oil has seen an explosive increase in demand. Alabama’s existing rail lines have become a critical link in this booming trade. Firms that are buying and/or operating short-line rails know that the existing infrastructure was not up to current safety standards. In some cases, millions of dollars had been invested in upgrades such as track structure improvements, but companies are aware that safety issues remain.
And yet, they have not allowed this to slow the number of trains that run. In fact, business continues to move at an increasing pace. Where the transportation of oil by rail was nearly non-existent just four years ago, railways are now responsible for delivering about one-tenth of the national crude oil output.
The one positive outcome of an incident like the one in Alabama – especially as no one was hurt – is that it does tend to heighten the safety focus, which can result in tougher standards handed down by transportation regulators.
Although the Alabama crash occurred in a rural area, it’s worth noting that portions of the track a few miles away run within just 300 meters of elementary schools and crowded government buildings. Without some of those infrastructure updates, the potential for a major disaster continues to be a very real threat.
Personal injury lawyers in Montgomery can be reached at Allred & Allred P.C. at 334.396.9200.
More Blog Entries:
Economic Recovery and The Risk of Montgomery Construction Accidents, Nov. 20, 2013, Alabama Injury Lawyer Blog