Federal inspectors say they found an alarming number of defects in the locomotives and railcars Union Pacific used this summer at the world’s largest railroad station in western Nebraska, and the railroad is unwilling to fix the problems.
Federal Railways Administrator Amit Bose wrote a letter On Friday, the company expressed concerns to three Union Pacific Railroad executives that the deficiencies posed a “significant risk to rail safety” to Union Pacific Railroad.
Bose said inspectors found 19.93 percent of rolling stock defects and 72.69 percent of locomotive defects in July and August, both twice the national average. But the letter did not detail what deficiencies inspectors found at Bailey’s yard in North Platte, and federal regulations are numerous.
“Compliance of rolling stock (wagons and locomotives) on the UP network is poor and UP is unwilling or unable to take steps to improve the condition of its equipment,” Bose said in the letter.
Bose questioned whether the Omaha, Neb.-based railroad, one of the largest in the country, recently laid off 94 locomotive technicians and 44 drivers, leaving UP without enough personnel to complete necessary repairs.
Union Pacific spokesperson Christine South said Sunday that layoffs are not an issue and that the railroad remains committed to safety.
“Union Pacific will never compromise on the safety of our employees. Safety is always our top priority and we are reviewing and will address the concerns raised at Frankfurt Airport,” South said.
Rail safety has been a major issue nationwide this year since another railroad, Norfolk Southern, derailed and caught fire in eastern Ohio in February. The East Palestine derailment prompted calls for reform from regulators and members of Congress, but few major changes have been made since.
South said the railroad has appropriate staffing and enough capacity to “provide a buffer for the natural ebb and flow of our business.”
The layoffs announced by UP late last month, which came after FRA concluded inspections, represent a small portion of the railroad’s more than 30,000 employees.
Union Pacific’s new CEO, Jim Weiner, took over the railroad’s top job just last month. Union Pacific has a 32,400 mile (52,000 km) rail network in 23 western states.