CXS Railroad Outsources Track Maintenance and Safety of Crossings

            Cost cutting measures on railroads like CSX Transportation, a major east coast freight railroad, can lead to safety problems which may result in more injuries and deaths to motorists crossing the railroad tracks at highway grade crossings throughout Virginia (VA) and elsewhere.  For example, one way that CSXT has tried to save money in recent years has been to shed track that they were responsible for if it did not have a high enough profit margin for them.  What they will do is take some track that is a branch of their railroad and lease it to a small short line railroad.  CSX continues to run its trains on the track paying the short line for the right to do so.  The cost savings comes from the big freight railroad not having to spend any money on maintaining the track, including the railroad crossings both public and private, placing all their responsibility on this small railroad company.  Now instead of having to spend its own money fixing the track it uses, CSX can blame the small company, sometimes with very little capitalization and experience, for anything that is not safe at railroad crossings.  The short line may not have enough people or expertise to even know what their obligations are as far as cutting back the vegetation at crossings to allow the motorists to be able to see the oncoming train with enough time to avoid it.  The minor rail company may not have the expertise to realize when changes need to be made to a crossing to avoid collisions with motorists such as adding a stop sign or other features to a dangerous crossing.  When someone gets killed at the crossing, the suit is not going to be against CSX, but against this mom and pop railroad operator.  In order to get these lucrative short line railroad lease deals, the short lines have to promise to indemnify CSX if it ever gets sued about the bad condition of the track or the crossings.  They may have millions of dollars of insurance coverage for people who die as a result of preventable grade crossing accidents, but that is little consolation to the family members left behind by CSX’s unsafe scheme to decrease its costs.


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