REPORT: Norfolk Southern CEO Makes Safety Pledges To Lawmakers Ahead Of Hill Testimony

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James Lynch Contributor
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Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw is rolling out new rail safety measures ahead of his Thursday testimony about the February train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, Politico reports.

The company’s plan consists primarily of improving equipment used to detect overheating wheels, which were the cause of the East Palestine train derailment according to the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) preliminary report on the accident. (RELATED: Trump’s Railroad Regulation Rollbacks Would Not Have Led To Toxic Ohio Train Derailment, Expert Says)

Norfolk Southern says it will boost the number of detectors along tracks and reviewing how far they are spaced, Politico reported. The company will also try to create a new industry consensus on rail safety and accelerate research on automated inspection technology, the outlet continued.

Shaw is scheduled to appear in front of the Senate Committee on Public Works to testify about protecting public health and the environment in the wake of the East Palestine train derailment and subsequent chemical contamination. The hearing will be led by Republican Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, Democratic Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey.

Vance, Brown and Casey, along with three other senators, introduced the bipartisan Rail Safety Act of 2023 in response to the derailment. The bill would strengthen safety protocols for trains carrying hazardous chemicals and create new requirements for crew sizes and wayside defect detectors. Fines for rail carriers who commit wrongdoing would also be increased.

A Norfolk Southern train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in East Palestine on Feb. 3, after which the chemicals were released into the environment by a controlled burn to prevent an explosion. This forced residents to temporarily evacuate the town. State and federal officials have determined the air and water to be safe, despite continued reports of illnesses suffered by civilians and workers in the town.

Shaw sold stock in Norfolk Southern on Friday to create a scholarship fund for high school students in East Palestine. He has visited the town on multiple occasions after skipping the community’s first town hall meeting about the train derailment because of alleged threats to his safety.

A second Norfolk Southern train derailed in Clark County, Ohio on Saturday night. The train was not carrying deadly chemicals and no injuries have been reported.