NTSB Chair Says Norfolk Southern’s Safety Goals ‘Not Robust Enough’

The transportation board is investigating the railroad giant, which experienced several recent accidents that include the derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

The National Transportation Safety Board said on Sunday that Norfolk Southern’s proposed safety goals are “not robust enough,” after the railroad giant experienced several recent accidents that include the derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals in rural Ohio.

Norfolk Southern’s CEO, Alan Shaw, testified before the Senate on Thursday – over a month after one of the company’s trains carrying 20 cars worth of hazardous material derailed in the small Ohio town of East Palestine, creating a fiery disaster that threatens residents’ health and safety.

The company has also come under scrutiny after another of its freight trains derailed earlier this month near Springfield, Ohio. Last Tuesday, Norfolk Southern said one of its conductors was killed in Cleveland, Ohio, when he was “struck by a dump truck as a Norfolk Southern train was moving through a crossing” at a steel facility.

Shaw promised senators on Thursday that Norfolk Southern will clean the East Palestine site “safely, thoroughly and with urgency.” He also said he is committed to improving the company’s culture of safety, but refused to pledge to several safety-specific actions lawmakers presented to him.

On Sunday, NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said that Shaw’s attempt to set safety goals are not up to the board’s standard.

“They are not robust enough,” she told ABC’s “This Week.” “I think we’ll be looking at more recommendations as part of our investigation.”

The NTSB, which probes transportation accidents, launched a special investigation last week into Norfolk Southern to look into what it says is the company’s “organization and safety culture.” The board said that the East Palestine derailment occurred due to an overheated wheel bearing.

In addition to the railroad company’s recent accidents, the board said it is also probing three additional Norfolk Southern incidents ― two fatalities in 2021 and 2022 respectively, as well as a train derailment last year in Sandusky, Ohio.

Homendy said that the NTSB this week will be testing the valves responsible for releasing pressure of the five vinyl chloride cars in the train that derailed in East Palestine. The train was transporting hundreds of thousands of pounds of vinyl chloride, a chemical that has been linked to many types of cancer.

“We’ll see what comes of that testing,” she said. “We may have recommendations towards the end that are much broader.”

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