More thoughts on exploding trains

Posted by Fred Frailey
on Sunday, February 22, 2015

You may have read that the Canadian government is requiring rail shippers of crude to take out insurance against the risk of derailment damage. You can bet that the Marsh & McClellan actuaries are trying to calculate the risk of another OMG incident - a Lac-Megantic or that Amtrak train plowing into the train of crude oil splayed across the right of way.

Let's see: A year or so ago in a blog, at someone's suggestion, I plowed through FRA accident stats and concluded we should expect six noticeable derailments of crude oil trains a year. Well, that's about what is happening.

What I don't know how to calculate the odds of a truly catastrophic incident, a la Amtrak or Lac-Megantic. But this is really a form of Russian Roulette. Spin the chamber often enough -- derail enough crude oil trains over time -- and a bullet will someday be in the chamber.

Your odds of having that day dawn diminish when you decrease the rate of derailments. We need to 1) seriously slow these trains down (the CSX train in West Virginia was doing 33 mph, and six days later the fire is still burning) or 2) take better care of our track and equipment.--Fred W. Frailey

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