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U.S. Senator pushes rail safety plan

Almost two years after a Conrail train carrying hazardous material derailed in Paulsboro, sending dangerous vinyl chloride gas into the air and forcing part of the community to be evacuated for days, New Jersey’s Senior U.S. Senator has unveiled a five-point plan to improve rail safety.

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Derailed train at Mantua Creek in Paulsboro
Derailed train at Mantua Creek in Paulsboro (US Coast Guard)

Standing at the site where the accident occurred, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez said his legislation is based on recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board following a lengthy investigation.

“The legislation aims to make sure that the industry creates a safety culture at all railroads, that encourages better risk management and decision-making to prevent accidents from happening in the first place, and guarantees that first responders and local communities have the information necessary to protect their neighborhoods in the event that an accident does occur,” he said.

He stressed what happened in Paulsboro can help to instruct all of us what changes need to be made nationwide.

“We believe that creating a culture of safety in the industry is incredibly important, and we are going to consider stronger penalties for railroads that operate in an unsafe manner,” Menendez.

Menendez said NTSB recommendations call for changes at several agencies, including the Department of Transportation, The Federal Railroad Administration, and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

“We’re going to find out what recommendations can be implemented under existing law and regulations and follow up with additional legislation where it’s needed,” he said.

Late Thursday, Conrail issued a statement saying, “Conrail remains committed to the safe operation of our railroad for our neighboring communities, our employees and our customers.”

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