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March 31, 2000
Towns' train woes are tied to Conrail
Since the system broke up in June, derailments and prolonged stoppages have become more common.
By Deborah Bolling INQUIRER SUBURBAN STAFF
COLLINGDALE - Government and railroad officials yesterday blamed a recent spate of train derailments and prolonged stoppages primarily on the breakup of the Conrail system last June.
They spoke at a public-safety hearing at the Borough Hall held by the state House Consumer Affairs Committee.
"The nature of train operations has changed considerably since last June," said Michael Brimmer, regional vice president for state relations for CSX Corp. "CSX and Norfolk Southern are competing for Conrail lines, which means there is now more competition with trucks, which means more business, which ultimately means more trains."
Last spring, CSX and Norfolk Southern purchased Conrail and divided the rail system between them. Brimmer said that in Tinicum Township, where prolonged stoppages occur frequently, any one of the three entities could be responsible. Brimmer said that has made it difficult for local officials to know whose train has created the problem.
"CSX will blame Conrail, then Conrail will blame Norfolk Southern, then Norfolk Southern will blame CSX," said Tom Giancristoforo, a Tinicum Township commissioner. "But we just want to know when it will stop."
Giancristoforo testified that locomotives were often left parked and idling on the tracks for hours, sometimes days.
The hearing was convened after a seven-car derailment on the border of Yeadon and Darby Boroughs on Feb. 13, and numerous lengthy stoppages in Darby, which continued to interfere with emergency vehicles and other traffic passing through the borough.
Twice, Darby Borough Mayor Paula M. Brown drove her own car onto the tracks to protest what she said were the "unacceptable and repeated stoppages."
The mayor's actions prompted a federal judge to threaten her - or anyone else in the borough - with contempt of court if there were additional interference with the trains' movements.
Last week, more than a month after the seven-car derailment, CSX certified that repairs to that area had been completed, and that it was now safe for trains to resume normal speeds of 30 m.p.h. They had been slowed to 10 m.p.h. immediately after the derailment.
"We need more clarity with regards to who is responsible for what," State Rep. Ron Raymond, a Republican from Sharon Hill, said afterward.
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