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Critics argue long freight trains create safety concerns after Coolidge derailment

Federal rail investigators are trying to figure out what caused a Union Pacific freight train to derail near the town of Coolidge last week.
Published: Mar. 1, 2022 at 9:05 PM MST
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COOLIDGE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) – Federal rail investigators are trying to figure out what caused a Union Pacific freight train to derail near the town of Coolidge last week. But critics are already pointing to one safety concern they say is putting extra wear and tear on rail infrastructure: extra-long freight trains rolling through Arizona.

“The longer the train, that’s going to be, the heavier the train. So, when you see a 14,000 foot long train, you can probably count on it being at least 10,000 tons. And that’s 10,000 tons of equipment running over the same railroad, the same rail, the same infrastructure that has been there for years,” said Scott Jones, who is the state legislative director for the SMART Union transportation division.

Jones says the long trains began running through Arizona about a year ago. He says the major train companies have also reduced the number of employees on each train from seven to two, and Jones believes that is eroding safety. “We really feel like it’s putting safety at risk,” said Jones.

A spokesperson from Union Pacific did not address questions about the size of the train that derailed in Coolidge but released the following statement:

The investigation into the derailment near Coolidge, Arizona, is ongoing. The safety of our employees is our top priority, and we are committed to the safe operation and maintenance of our equipment. We follow federal rules and regulations in the operation, maintenance, and inspection of equipment, using a variety of technology. We understand the impact of this derailment, and we want to assure the community of Coolidge and Arizona residents that we work diligently to prevent derailments and other incidents.