(Houston, Texas – July 1, 2011)
Proving both how unfamiliar they are with the letter of Federal Railroad Administration law, as well as how little regard they sometimes have for public convenience, Union Pacific Railroad operating officials allowed a train crew to leave their train unattended in one of the busiest sections of southwest Houston, for nearly 8 hours on July 1.
Claiming they could not work beyond 12 hours, the locomotive engineer and conductor left the 100-car train unattended at 4:30 A.M. on a Friday morning, failing to wait for a relief crew, who did not arrive until nearly noon. Vehicular traffic along the Southwest Freeway (U.S. Highway 59) became a nightmare as the train prevented passage at Richmond and South Alabama Streets near Newcastle.
The Federal Railroad Administration law permits – in fact, requires – a crew to secure the train at the nearest siding so as not to block rail or highway traffic. This rule was clearly ignored.
“The train should not have been blocking those crossings to begin with,” attested Union Pacific spokesperson Raquel Espinoza-Williams when contacted by Houston Fox TV Channel 26. “We have policies and procedures in place to keep that from happening. Unfortunately, we had a ‘miscommunication’ situation with our dispatch center,” she explained.
Both City and State (Texas Dept. of Transportation) were researching their statutes to determine if charges could be levied against Union Pacific for the traffic tie-up.