I-Team: ‘I’m listening;’ Norfolk Southern CEO speaks nearly 6 months after East Palestine derailment

SPRINGFIELD — Thursday will mark six months since the toxic train derailment in East Palestine.

Norfolk Southern’s Chief Executive Officer, Alan Shaw, was in Ohio this weekend, checking on the cleanup.

News Center 7′s I-Team spoke to Shaw about how both derailments in Springfield and East Palestine have put new attention on safety reform for the company and the entire rail industry.

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Six months after the toxic derailment, Shaw said the cost of cleaning up East Palestine for his company has reached north of $800 million.

“Norfolk Southern is a safe railroad. Now, last year, our number of derailments was the lowest in two decades, and we can do better,” Shaw said.

In the wake of the disaster, Shaw said the company put in place a new six-point safety plan.

“We’ve been fully cooperating with the (National Transportation Safety Board) throughout this whole process, and I fully support their investigation. And we are going to learn from this.” Shaw said.

Another issue — long trains blocking crossings in the Miami Valley and across Ohio.

In all, people across the state reported more than 3,500 blocked railroad crossings in 2022, ranking Ohio second in the nation.

Shaw said Norfolk Southern is working with the federal government to get grants that would fix these problems.

“We fully understand the inconvenience and the problems that blocked crossings have to the communities we serve,” Shaw said.

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Ohio U.S. senators are pushing for changes with the bipartisan Railway Safety Act.

Sherrod Brown and J.D. Vance said they are getting close to the 60 votes they need to pass the bill out of the Senate.

“We can add some common sense safety inspections and rail security measures to our rail system. And I think if we do, we’re going to be a lot better off as a country,” Vance said.

“This bill should have passed quickly, but the railroads have their way with far too many members of Congress,” Brown said. “We’re going to beat back that lobby. I’m hopeful we do it in September, send the bill to the House and get it passed.”

I-Team asked Shaw to respond to that criticism from Senator Brown, and others, who say the rail industry has resisted safety changes from lawmakers over the years — saying their lobbyists are too powerful and that the industry isn’t listening.

“I’m listening. I’ve been on the Hill. I’ve been engaged with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle on offering my full-throated endorsement for many of the provisions in the various railway safety bills.” Shaw said.

Shaw was in East Palestine this weekend checking on the cleanup.

He said there’s no strict timeline for when the work will be finished, but says Norfolk Southern is working closely with state and federal government agencies involved to make sure it’s done right.

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