Federal railroad inspectors said the CSX Transportation system used by passenger and commuter trains up and down the East Coast has deteriorating track conditions and other potentially dangerous defects in many areas, according to The Washington Post.
The Post reported that a 60 percent increase in track-caused accidents over five years on the 22,700-mile system prompted the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to begin a two-week systemwide track audit on Feb. 22.
The review found many instances where the distance between the rails had spread wide enough to risk derailment.
Two such wide areas were found in the District of Columbia on the line used by Amtrak, Virginia Railway Express and all north-south CSX freight trains.
The defects were repaired immediately after they were found.
Defects were also found in Florida, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
Two of three recent track-caused derailments were caused by wide track, including a minor derailment of Amtrak's Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited at Connellsville, Pa., on Jan. 30, the report said.
George Gavalla, the agency's associate administrator for safety, said he worried about the type of defects inspectors found.
"When you look at the nature of the defects, these are conditions that should not exist on any Class One (major) railroad," Gavalla told the Post. "We will not tolerate wide gauge on any railroad."
John W. Snow, chairman and chief executive officer of CSX Corp., responded to the story about the FRA's findings.
"There can be no compromise on any safety condition on our railroad," said Snow. "We recognize some problems and openly welcome the FRA's draft report in the spirit it is offered -- a genuine and sincere interest in assuring even greater safety on our railroad."
Snow said CSX has repaired or is in the process of repairing all of the defects identified in the report.
CSX, headquartered in Richmond, Va., operates the largest rail network in the eastern United States.