Norfolk Southern said despite investing almost $1 billion so far, it will not be able to meet the Dec. 31, 2015, positive train control deadline. (Norfolk Southern photo)

Norfolk Southern Halting PIH Shipments Dec. 1

NS is not the only railroad unable to meet the Dec. 31 PTC deadline. Its announcement said PIH commodities already in transit on Dec. 1 will be delivered by Dec. 31. Despite investing nearly $1 billion to date, Norfolk Southern won't meet the deadline, it said.

Norfolk Southern Railway Company announced that its rail operating subsidiaries will not accept any more shipments of Poisonous-Inhalation-Hazard (PIH) commodities effective Dec. 1, 2015. PIH commodities in transit on that date will be delivered by Dec. 31, but starting Dec. 1, NS will not pull PIH loads or residual cars from a facility on the NS rail network and will not accept such cars at interchange.

The service changes are taking effect throughout the entire NS rail network and are required to comply with federal safety laws that become effective after Dec. 31, 2015, which is the government's deadline for installing Positive Train Control. Several major railroads have been pleading for an extension of that deadline, saying they are investing significant sums to meet the PTC mandate but cannot be ready in time. "Despite investment of nearly $1 billion to date, NS will not meet the deadline," Norfolk Southern's statement said. It also said NS "has notified in writing Amtrak, Virginia Railway Express and Metra that passenger trains will not be permitted to operate on NSR track after December 31, 2015."

The rail company operates about 22,000 miles of track in eastern U.S. states.

The company's announcement included a long list of PIH commodities affected by the service changes, including anhydrous ammonia, insecticide gases, phosgene, compressed carbon monoxide, methyl mercaptan, chlorine, and hydrogen sulfide.  

CSX Corporation's chairman and CEO, Michael J. Ward, wrote a letter in September to U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S. Dak., who chairs the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, pressing for an extension and stating that CSX has invested more than $1.3 billion to date and won't meet the deadline. "Many of the hurdles we contemplated in 2008 remain as challenges today, and many new hurdles have arisen as we have diligently worked toward successfully implementing PTC. For example, nearly seven years after the passage of [the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 [which established the PTC deadline], we still do not have final, defect-free versions of the various software components from the railroad supplier community necessary to deploy PTC broadly across the CSX rail network," Ward wrote.

Thune delivered a speech Sept. 30 on the Senate floor urging an extension to be provided and saying the deadline threatens to shut down major passenger rail operations on Jan. 1, 2016, if no extension of the deadline is forthcoming.

NS said it "sincerely regrets the inconvenience that customers, passengers, and commuters will experience and hopes that Congress will act quickly and decisively to allow us to restore full access to our rail network."

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