FRA says broken bolts, poor maintenance caused June 3 oil train wreck

Union Pacific says it will begin moving crude oil trains through Columbia River Gorge again despite local pleas
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MOSIER, Ore. — Union Pacific told state and local officials in Oregon this week that unit oil trains will soon return to the Columbia River Gorge, three weeks after a train carrying crude derailed and exploded in Mosier, about 70 miles east of Portland.

The announcement came the day before the Federal Railroad Administration released its preliminary findings from the June 3 wreck. In the report released on Thursday, the FRA found that multiple lag bolts on the track had broken resulting in a wide gauge.

“Unless or until details come to light, the FRA has made the preliminary determination that Union Pacific’s failure to maintain its track and track equipment resulted in the derailment,” officials wrote.

UP has come under fire in recent weeks in Oregon after it resumed rail service on its Portland Subdivision before completely cleaning up the derailment site. Elected officials in Oregon have called for a moratorium on all oil trains in the state until additional safeguards are put in place.

Although UP temporarily stopped running oil trains through the Gorge after the wreck, spokesperson Justin Jacobs tells Trains News Wire that they will return this week.
“Union Pacific has a singular goal: to operate trains safely,” Jacobs says. “Some of the products Union Pacific transports are considered to be hazardous, including crude oil.”

Jacobs notes that crude oil makes up less than 1 percent of the railroad’s traffic in Oregon. He also says that railroad officials reminded local communities that it is required to move crude oil and other hazardous materials due to its common carrier obligation.

“If a customer delivers a crude oil tank car in conformity with U.S. Department of Transportation requirements, we are obligated to transport the rail car to its destination,” Jacobs says.

No one was injured when 16 cars on a 96-car unit oil train derailed near Mosier on June 3. Four of the 16 cars caught fire and sent smoke and flames hundreds of feet into the sky over the famous river region straddling Oregon and Washington states. The fire forced the evacuation of nearby homes and destroyed a sewage line forcing a temporary closure of the city’s water treatment plant.

The June 3 incident was just the latest in a string of oil train derailments that have made headlines across North America in recent years. Since the deadly, Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, wreck in 2013 there have been nearly a dozen oil train derailments that have resulted in fires.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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