US Senate leader Schumer has called for a federal safety investigation of all major freight railroads

US Senate leader Schumer has called for a federal safety investigation of all major freight railroads

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday called on the National Transportation Safety Board to open an investigation into the safety practices of seven major freight railroads after the East Palestine, Ohio derailment.

In addition to Norfolk Southern, the companies are BNSF Railway, CSX, Union Pacific, Canadian National, Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern, Schumer said in a letter to the agency.

Schumer said that over the past five years, these freight rail companies had “more than 26,500 accidents and incidents and 2,768 deaths, while cutting nearly 20% of their workforce.”

On February 3, a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous materials derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, releasing more than 1 million gallons of harmful pollutants.

In a Senate speech Wednesday, Schumer accused the seven freight carriers of a “dangerous industry-wide trend” that he said “puts profits over the safety of people.”

“Norfolk Southern is not the only rail company that has lobbied for years to loosen regulations, neglect safety upgrades and lay off workers,” Schumer said.

The Democratic leader said a full-scale NTSB investigation is needed to determine whether the accidents occurred in populated areas, the amount of toxic chemicals that were released from the incidents and whether “severely degraded or poorly designed” tracks were a contributing factor.

Last week, Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw testified at a Senate hearing and is scheduled to appear at another rail safety Senate hearing on March 22.

He apologized for the Ohio derailment and pledged to improve his company’s safety practices, as well as dedicate resources to cleaning up the East Palestine site.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio)

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