Alexandra Berardelli ‘25
Train safety has been a prevalent issue in the US and abroad for decades. But, considering the recent train devastations in Ohio, Alabama, West Virginia, Greece, and hundreds of others that often go unnoticed by the general public, train safety concerns are gaining even more attention than ever. First and foremost, I express my deepest sympathies to those affected by all the train catastrophes worldwide and offer comfort and prayers to those recovering and mourning.
Train safety is not necessarily a new concern. Still, amid all current national and international affairs, train safety is a point of global urgency for several reasons. While there has been much news coverage on in-station safety in major cities such as New York, Chicago, and Boston concerning violent crimes, train derailments are a different animal. The train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 3rd, elicits many emotions, especially confusion, grief, and frustration. As a nation that has gone so far in technological advancement, we may find ourselves dumbfounded by such a catastrophic event. Excuse my ignorance, but before these recent events, I did not really doubt our freight train system. But, after initial feelings and repetition of such events, we might ask ourselves: What went wrong? How could something like this go wrong? Who do we appoint to fix this? How can we fix this? Where do we start?
Fortunately, in this particular Ohio event, there were no reported fatalities or injuries, but this accident goes beyond the tracks with its sudden derailment and fire; it still makes its way to the people. Because this train carried toxic chemicals, residents in the surrounding area were instantly concerned about possible tracks of intoxication from the hazardous material. Sure, the situation is fine for now, but there is no precise way to tell the long-term consequences on people’s health and welfare. Regardless of how directly people are affected by these train derailments, it is still hazardous and difficult to anticipate any severe long-term consequences.
While we can not solve this problem in a single article, we should start at the core by questioning safety measures and examining the situations under extreme criticism to decrease these sorts of catastrophic events. Nearly a month after this devastating derailment, a collision between a freight train and a passenger train in Greece resulted in many deaths and injuries. This is a type of devastation to humanity as a whole. If we want to get to the core of train safety, we must also consider human error, a massive component of the news cycle concerning the Greece train crash. Unfortunately, I am unsure if we can find a solution to correct human error because we often only know of the consequences once it is too late. I want to avoid seeing this happening again, but there will always be more, or at least in the future, without some serious reconstruction of the railroad system.
Seeing both sides of train derailments with freight trains and passenger trains demonstrates a need to find a balance to deal with the safety of both. They negatively affect the greater population, some more directly than others. My prayers go out to those affected by the recent train crashes. While we can not redo the entire train safety procedure now, let us begin by prioritizing humanity’s health and welfare. Then, we can make severe systematic changes so that no more errors or devastating news will emerge.
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