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NTSB opens special probe into Norfolk Southern safety practices

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General view of the site of the derailment of a train carrying hazardous waste, in East Palestine, Ohio, U.S., March 2, 2023. 

Alan Freed | Reuters

The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday said it opened a special investigation into Norfolk Southern after recent derailments.

The special probe will look into the company’s organization and safety culture, according to a press release.

“Given the number and significance of recent Norfolk Southern accidents, the NTSB also urges the company to take immediate action today to review and assess its safety practices, with the input of employees and others, and implement necessary changes to improve safety,” the NTSB said in a statement.

Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw said the company will fully cooperate with the NTSB.

“Moving forward, we are going to rebuild our safety culture from the ground up. We are going to invest more in safety,” he said in a statement Tuesday. “This is not who we are, it is not acceptable, and it will not continue.”    

The news of the probe comes before Shaw is set to testify Thursday before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works to address potential threats to public health and the environment resulting from the East Palestine, Ohio, derailment last month.

Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said the panel wants to know about a variety of issues stemming from that derailment.

“What did they do well? What did they do badly? What are they doing to address things that they botched? What are they doing since the incident occurred in order to make people feel cared for, cared about?” Carper told CNBC. “When we walk out of there, I want to make sure that Norfolk Southern is doing what they need to do to make this right. Not just with respect to the folks in the community but also in terms of the movement of these hazardous substances all over our country, even as we speak.”

The NTSB released a preliminary report last month that pointed to an overheated wheel bearing as a factor in the derailment and fire.

On Saturday, another Norfolk Southern train derailed near Springfield, Ohio. Unlike the East Palestine incident, this train wasn’t carrying hazardous materials. No injuries were reported following the derailment.

The NTSB has launched investigations into five incidents involving Norfolk Southern, including the death of a Norfolk Southern conductor Tuesday morning in Cleveland after a dump truck collided with a train at a steel facility. The conductor, who was identified as Louis Shuster, was struck when a dump truck carrying limestone collided with the side of the train’s first car, a Cleveland Police spokesperson said.

–CNBC’s Christina Wilkie contributed to this report from Washington.


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