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Report: Federal agency launching extensive safety probe of Union Pacific

August 26, 1997

SAN ANTONIO (AP) _ Three fatal Union Pacific collisions since late June have prompted the Federal Railroad Administration to launch a comprehensive investigation of the company, the San Antonio Express-News reported Tuesday.

FRA spokesman David Bolger told the Express-News that between 50 and 60 federal inspectors will be dispatched this week to examine every aspect of the company’s operation.

``We are launching safety inspections teams to review the entire Union Pacific system. That is 36,000 miles of track,″ Bolger said Monday. ``We are going systemwide. We are going to dispatch centers. We are reviewing (hazardous material) inspections, train control, operating practices and training.″

The agency’s plans were disclosed one day after the newspaper reported widespread railway safety problems, including many of the ones the federal regulators will be investigating.

``We have nothing to hide and look forward to them coming,″ Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis said.

A union representing railroad engineers applauded the FRA’s plans.

``We think it’s wonderful they are doing this for the interest of the public and their employees,″ said Ed Dubroski, first vice president of the 33,000-member Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers.

Union Pacific, the largest railroad in the country, has seen seven lives claimed in three recent collisions.

_ On June 22, two train crew members and two transients were killed when two trains collided head-on in Devine. A preliminary investigation found a message was not relayed for the northbound train to wait for a southbound train.

_ On July 2, one engineer was killed in an incident in Rossville, Kan., when a train that was supposed to pull into a side track and stop kept moving and hit a passing train on the main track.

_ Last Wednesday, two engineers were killed and a conductor was badly burned in Fort Worth when four unmanned locomotives rolled out of a side track and traveled undetected for almost 10 miles before hitting an El Paso-bound train leaving the Centennial Railyard.

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