November 9, 2015: (SA) Addressing Rail Head Surface Conditions Identified During the Internal Rail Inspection Process

As a direct result of the derailment in West Virginia earlier this year the Federal Railroad Administration is issuing a safety advisory in an effort to remind track owners, track maintenance personnel, and rail flaw detection equipment operators how important it is that everyone comply with rail management programs and engineering procedures dealing with rail head surface conditions during rail flaw and track inspections. FRA is also reminding track owners to make sure rail flaw detection equipment operators are trained properly.
The derailment in West Virginia was caused by a broken rail, which resulted from a vertical split head. FRA believes this derailment could have, and should have, been prevented. Rail flaw detection equipment indicated flaw conditions at that location in December 2014 and January 2015. Unfortunately, the operator did not perform the on ground examination of the defect because he felt the reading was a false positive. Had the operator understood and identified the indications for various rail flaw conditions he would have reported the defect to the track owner. At that time the owner would have repaired or replaced the rail which would have prevented the derailment.

Safety Advisory No. 2015–05