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Railroad Safety

Though your editorial (“It’s No Way to Run a Railroad,” Aug. 22) does make the essential point about railroad safety, that in order to be viable, profitable businesses railroads must operate safely and provide reliable service, we do take strong issue with the statement that Federal Railroad Administration inspections in Tucson, Bakersfield, Sparks (and Roseville) found many serious safety defects on Southern Pacific locomotives.

The facts are that in four intensive FRA audits this past June, and out of 248 locomotives inspected, only 24 can be considered safety-related, which is 10% of the inspected units. While Southern Pacific is not satisfied when any of the locomotives have safety-related defects, this figure is certainly a far cry from the oft-quoted 90% failure rates.

The answer to your subhead “If federal inspectors don’t put the public’s safety first, who will?” is the railroads will and do. The Department of Transportation notes that since 1980 the number of the fatalities attributed to the release of hazardous materials carried by trains was one--the deaths where trucks were involved totaled 318. Our marketplace demands reliability, which only comes with safety. The public can rely on us!

MICHAEL C. BROWN

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Director, Corporate Communications

Southern Pacific

San Francisco


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