Friday, November 16, 2012

Freight Train Tragedies Must Reduce as Logistics Infrastructure Developed

Pointless Tragedies are a Daily Event
Shipping News Feature

US – UK - WORLDWIDE – One of the saddest thing about publishing a logistics and shipping based publication is the number of tragic stories, most unsuitable for printing, which arrive every single day via e mail. The most common of these are tales involving freight train incidents which most people wouldn’t realise occur with a horrifying monotony across the globe. The main reasons for not publishing these stories is simply a lack of relevance to our purpose – the fact that the trains carry cargo is incidental to the human interest story, therefore not in our brief.

Today two such stories arrived and it is perhaps time to illustrate that these everyday incidents have reached a point when they should no longer be ignored, a few simple precautions would avoid the huge death toll which inevitably accompanies accidents involving locomotives pulling thousands of tonnes of freight.

The first incident cost the lives of four people yesterday as a float carrying a party of injured war veterans passed over a West Texas railroad when it was struck by a freight train. The accident left ten more in a critical condition and several others with minor injuries as they headed for a ceremony to honour their sacrifices before a free deer hunting trip. The accident will be fully investigated by the US National Transportation Safety Board but it is believed all the safety features on the track were fully operational.

What strikes a chord with this terrible incident is the alarming number of similar accidents which plague the United States. The huge size of the freight trains, their apparently monotonous progress as they lumber past for minutes at a time seem to often tempt drivers of all types of vehicles to ‘jump’ the tracks and the host of near miss videos on YouTube and the like bear witness to the temporary insanity which seems to afflict people when faced by a set of flashing lights and an approaching locomotive.

Many countries around the world, usually less prosperous than the USA, often take inadequate precautions to protect people from themselves but surely the type of descending barrier most often used in the UK would prevent many of these tragedies. The second story today however shows that Britain, whilst generally employing better trackside safety, is not immune from idiots, this time with the intent of harming others rather than taking a risk themselves.

Two boys aged 15 and 17 were bailed by Mansfield British Transport Police yesterday following their arrest concerning the derailment of a coal carrying train a few days previously. The train left the tracks at the Thoresby Colliery junction near Edwinstowe just after five o’clock in the morning after someone deliberately piled ‘a substantial amount’ of rocks on the track.

The real tragedy of this type of incident is that so often they go unreported, particularly when the locale involved is in a rural area in a country where such instances are an everyday event. As multimodalism becomes more widespread and freight trains become longer and more common it will be necessary that the rail infrastructure improvements taking place world wide include the very best and latest safety features to try and reduce the unnecessary death and injury toll we witness here daily.