PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — New details are emerging in last year’s train derailment that left a huge mess at Station Square.
A new report shows the tracks were inspected just weeks before the massive derailment and inspectors missed a major defect in the tracks.
The derailment put lives at risk and caused nearly $2 millions in damages. In fact, it damaged the Port Authority T rails so badly, repairs took weeks before the rail could run again.
The weekend freight train derailment sent those waiting for the T below running as seven rail cars tumbled from the tracks above. It was the worst train accident within the city limits in decades.
Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt and the cars held nothing more dangerous or volatile than dog food and mouthwash as clean-up crews began the daunting task for clearing the wreckage and debris.
But now the Federal Railroad Administration has concluded that the entire accident could have been avoided with a more thorough inspection of the tracks.
Their investigation, now official, agrees with the initial assessment of Norfolk Southern Railroad, which owns the train. The railroad concluded that a broken or fractured rail caused it to derail.
It also agrees that it was not operator error. The train was traveling a recorded speed of 25 miles an hour and does not appear to have exceeded the speed limit.
But the Railroad Administration report cited Norfolk Southern’s contractor Sperry Rail Service, which conducted a visual inspection of the track three weeks before the accident but did not detect the flaw.
The derailment report says: “It was evident that the Sperry chief operator had multiple opportunities to recognize a potential defect and follow up with a ground inspection.”
The report notes that the derail caused $1.8 million in damage to the tracks and the T, and resulted in three weeks of service disruptions.
Port Authority has been seeking to recoup $3 million from the railroad.
Both Sperry and Norfolk Southern have been fined $25,000 apiece.
Port Authority says it has an agreement in principle for repayment from the railroad, but the exact figure hasn’t been worked out.
“This resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages,” said Port Authority’s Adam Brandolph. “Right now, we’re in amicable discussions. We have an agreement in principle. We’re just negotiating how much it’s gong to be.”
Norfolk Southern and Sperry Rail Service couldn’t be reached for comment.