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Regulators to Monitor Safety at Union Pacific Railroad

September 11, 1997|From Times Wire Services

Federal regulators will take the unprecedented step of setting up shop at Union Pacific Railroad headquarters to monitor safety at the nation's largest railroad because of violations found after a string of crashes over the summer that killed seven people.

"The size of this railroad calls for different and unique fixes to what we consider serious deficiencies," Federal Railroad Administration spokesman David Bolger said Wednesday.

The agency cited a laundry list of deficiencies at Union Pacific in a report that followed a 16-day probe by more than 60 federal inspectors dispatched to review the railroad's operations after three recent accidents.

Investigators found fatigued Union Pacific crews working long overtime, defective equipment and harassment and intimidation of employees reporting safety problems.

The agency will decide how much to fine the railroad.

It will also continue monitoring Union Pacific and place one official at the company's headquarters in Omaha to work with railroad executives, a step never taken before, Bolger said.

Federal Railroad administrator Jolene Molitoris said Union Pacific has agreed to address the safety issues and to appoint a senior manager who will oversee safety operations and report directly to the railroad's president. The railroad also said it will hire 16 more field managers immediately.

The Omaha-based railroad is a unit of Dallas-based Union Pacific Corp. On Wednesday, the railroad's top executive reiterated the company's intent to review and change some practices.

"I recognize that we must refocus every Union Pacific employee's attention on safety," Jerry Davis, president and chief operating officer of the railroad, said in a statement. "Let there be no doubt that this company's commitment to safety improvement is serious and comes straight from the top."

Union Pacific shares rose 44 cents to close at $62.94 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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