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Patricia M. Reilly, Washington, D.C., Published July 26 2013

Letter: Railroad safety record excellent

Regarding The Forum’s July 17 editorial about rail movements of crude oil:

Railroads have been hauling all types of hazardous commodities that are used by consumers and businesses throughout the country for decades – from farm fertilizer to crude oil – and records show railroads remain the safest way to transport these materials.

The events in Quebec this month were tragic, and the U.S. rail industry is closely following the investigation and what it reveals about the safe movement of crude oil. It remains true that hazardous materials accidents and spills from freight rail are exceedingly rare, with 99.997 percent of all hazardous materials shipments reaching their destination without a release caused by a train accident. In fact, 2012 was the safest year on record for U.S. railroads. This safety record is due to our industry’s strict adherence to safety rules and regulations.

We are also continuously upgrading and maintaining rail’s infrastructure and equipment. The freight rail industry spent more than $25 billion in private capital in 2012 alone. Yet, in the rare event when hazardous material is spilled, railroads are quick to respond. The industry works with local fire departments in advance to provide free training to hundreds of first responders throughout North Dakota and Minnesota and has its own hazmat responders and environmental contractors strategically positioned to respond to a rail incident.

The freight rail industry remains focused on continually improving its safety record and ensuring the goods we haul reach their destination safely.

Reilly is with the Association of American Railroads.