Derailments are the leading cause of railroad crashes in the United States. Broken tracks cause derailments in many cases. This month, a broken track caused a train to come off the tracks in Hampton Roads, investigators believe.
Investigators say a broken rail is thought to have caused eight cars and a locomotive to derail in Suffolk earlier this month.
The derailment in Suffolk caused damage to some backyards and the roadbed, but no crew or other people were injured.
Andrew Farmer, a spokesperson for the State Corporation Commission said on Tuesday said a cracked rail appeared to have caused the incident.
The SCC’s Railroad Regulation division works closely with the Federal Railroad Administration in Virginia. It is continuing to look at the crash in the area of Shoulders Hill Road and Baron Boulevard in Suffolk. Farmer said:
“Inspectors went out there and looked at the locomotives, the car, the rails, and the entire track bed. The broken rail is now being sent to a lab so we can determine what caused the rail to fail.”
The tracks are owned by the Commonwealth Railway, Inc, a company that runs the short 27-mile line from Suffolk to the West Norfolk area of Portsmouth.
Farmer said inspectors were at the line a week before the incident on May 7 and did not find any problems with the track.
The train that derailed was heading west from the Virginia International Gateway port. According to the Port of Virginia, it mainly comprised empty cars carrying Intermodal containers. Fewer than 100 freight containers were aboard and the port’s operations were not heavily disrupted.
Although no injuries were caused in the Suffolk derailment, it raises alarming questions about America’s rail infrastructure. Railroad workers are being injured by derailments.
Broken Tracks Cause Derailments – How Serious Is the Problem?
Derailments are the leading cause of train crashes in the United States and broken tracks cause many derailments, questioning the level of investment in our rail infrastructure.
From 2001 to 2010, 54,889 of the 58,299 train accidents took place in the United States were train derailments, representing 94 percent.
As America’s railroad infrastructure becomes older, we are seeing increasing numbers of derailments.
Broken rails and welds are more than twice as likely to cause train derailments than the second and third leading causes — track geometry and the failure of bearings, states the Federal Railroad Administration. Broken rails and welds were a factor in about 15 percent of derailments. Recently, we noted how deteriorating railroad ties on Norfolk Southern’s tracks are putting workers and others at risk and led to a lawsuit.
Issues with track geometry was responsible for 7.3 percent of derailments. Track geometry includes train alignment, gauge, and elevation. Bearing failure was responsible for 5.9 percent of derailments.
Often broken tracks elude inspectors. In 2015, a broken rail was linked to a fiery oil train derailment in southern West Virginia. Two inspections took place on the track prior to the accident.
Broken rails are putting the lives of railroad worker at risk. If you have been injured working on the railroad by a derailment or another type of accident, please call our FELA injury lawyers at (866) 455-6657. We take on railroad cases across the United States.