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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Switch Safety Guidelines Issued to Railroad Industry to Prevent Train Accidents Caused by Misaligned Switches

Document Series
Press Releases
Press Release Number
Contact Name
Steve Kulm
Contact Phone Number
(202) 493-6024
Switch, Safety, Misaligned

Tuesday, January 11, 2005 (Washington, D.C.) The Federal Railroad Administration today will issue a safety advisory to all of the nation's railroads to strengthen procedures for monitoring track switching operations. The advisory is in response to a recent number of incidents involving trains that derailed because switches that divert them from one track to another were left in the wrong position.

In its ongoing investigation of a January 6 Norfolk Southern Railway accident in Graniteville, South Carolina, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has indicated that a misaligned switch may have been one of the factors that resulted in a freight train being diverted from a main track onto a siding and into the path of parked locomotives.

The safety advisory states that railroads should document when a manually operated switch in non-signaled territory is changed from the main track to a siding and returned back to the normal position for main track movements. In addition, these actions should be communicated to all crewmembers and the train dispatcher. This increased attention and communication will better ensure that switches are not inadvertently left misaligned.

FRA Operating Practices inspectors will aggressively monitor railroads’ adoption of this advisory to help determine if additional steps are needed.

“An improperly lined switch invites disaster and can be easily avoided,” said FRA Acting Administrator Robert D. Jamison. “All railroads need to adopt the safety measures outlined in this advisory.”

Railroads operating rules currently govern the operation of manual switches and several have modified those rules in recent months.

Click here to view a copy of the Safety Advisory.

Last updated: Tuesday, January 11, 2005
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