FRA, Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad Enter Safety Pact

Track-caused train derailments resulting from inadequate track maintenance and inspection has led the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to enter into an agreement with the Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad Inc. (CORP) to improve its compliance with federal track safety standards.

The safety compliance agreement with CORP, a subsidiary of RailAmerica of Boca Raton, Fla., comes after a series of inspections conducted by FRA safety inspectors revealed ongoing failure to fully comply with federal track safety regulations.

In addition, there have been at least seven derailments on CORP territory in 2004 and 2005 caused by track quality, according to FRA.

Specifically, the problems identified by FRA officials involve defective crossties, poor rail joint conditions and wide gage where the rails have spread too far apart. Inspectors also noted that the railroad has not adequately trained its track inspectors, nor provided sufficient managerial oversight to ensure proper compliance with federal track safety rules.

"Performing sound track inspections and maintenance is not optional," FRA Administrator Joseph Boardman said. "We fully expect railroads large and small to comply with safety regulations that protect the public and safeguard railroad employees."

The agreement requires the railroad to develop and implement a detailed track maintenance and inspection plan. The plan must specify all measures to be taken to eliminate track defects and outline the number and type of inspections that will be conducted in order to eliminate wide gage and defective rails.

It also will develop and implement a program to train employees on how to make inspections for compliance with the federal track safety regulations and ensure they are fully qualified to assess the railroad's compliance.

During the 2-year agreement, FRA will conduct periodic inspections to review whether the railroad is fulfilling its obligations, Boardman added. If at any time FRA determines that the CORP is not meeting its responsibilities, the railroad will be subject to a more stringent compliance order that would hold top railroad officials personally responsible for the railroad's failure to adhere to the terms set forth in the original agreement.

The Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad currently operates over 470 miles of track in Oregon and California.

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