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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-18-010
Synopsis: On April 28, 2015, at 6:23 a.m. mountain daylight time, a westbound Southwestern Railroad (Southwestern) freight train with nine locomotives and 79 cars collided with Southwestern’s Roswell Local standing freight train. The striking train traveled through a switch that was in the reverse position at the east end of Chisum siding just south of Roswell, New Mexico. The two crewmembers on the lead locomotive of the striking train jumped before impact. (See figure 1.) The engineer died, and the conductor was seriously injured. Nine locomotives derailed from the striking train. Two locomotives and three empty hopper cars derailed from the standing train. Southwestern, which owned both trains, estimated the damage at $2.01 million. Sunrise was at 6:14 a.m.—9 minutes before the accident; visibility was 10 miles. The crew of the standing train had secured their train on the Chisum siding and gone off duty at 6:00 a.m.; they were not in the area at the time of the accident. The conductor of the standing train later told a manager that he had failed to line the switch for normal main track movement at the Chisum siding.
Recommendation: TO THE FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION: Require railroads to develop a device or technique to eliminate the possibility of employees failing to perform critical tasks such as lining a switch, lining a derail, or ensuring cars are in the clear.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Open - Unacceptable Response
Mode: Railroad
Location: Roswell, NM, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Accident #: DCA15MR008
Accident Reports: ​Preliminary Report DCA15MR008​Railroad Accident Brief: Southwestern Railroad Collision Roswell, New Mexico
Report #: RAR-16-04
Accident Date: 4/28/2015
Issue Date: 4/26/2018
Date Closed:
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: FRA (Open - Unacceptable Response)

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
Date: 9/16/2019
Response: In your August 24, 2018, letter, you wrote that you do not believe the technology to address this recommendation currently exists, and that developing this technology requires time consuming, costly research and development, with decreasing benefits as PTC is implemented. Further, you believe that implementing this recommendation would require technological redundancy to existing governmental regulations and railroads’ operating rules, increasing costs while providing minimal benefit. Therefore, you do not plan to take the recommended action. We point out that, in the Roswell accident, critical errors of omission did not occur because of a lack of rules. We believe that you have failed to implement effective regulation to mitigate the risk of misaligned switch accidents, and that, unless you implement more robust safety interventions, misaligned switch accidents will continue to occur. We are disappointed that you have not taken action to address this recommendation, despite the fact that we continue to see accidents involving misaligned switches. Therefore, on July 23, 2019, when we adopted our report, Amtrak Passenger Train Head-on Collision with Stationary CSX Freight Train, Cayce, South Carolina, February 4, 2018, we reiterated Safety Recommendation R-18-10 and classified it OPEN--UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: FRA
Date: 8/24/2018
Response: -From Ronald L. Batory, Administrator: FRA understands the intent ofNTSB's recommendation. FRA does not believe technology to address the recommendation currently exists. The Association of American Railroads agrees, and informed FRA that it is not working on, nor plans to work on, inventing such technology. Developing this technology would involve time-consuming, costly research and development, with decreasing benefits as positive train control is implemented throughout the United States. FRA is concerned that implementing this recommendation would set a precedent for requiring technological redundancy to existing governmental regulations and railroads' operating rules. This would increase costs while providing minimal benefits. As demonstrated by the Roswell accident, a regulation requiring railroad employees to take certain action to ensure safety does not inherently prevent all accidents. FRA believes that Railroad Operating Practices (Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations Part 218, Subpart F), effectively addresses the safety risks involved with the lining of switches and derails in a practical and cost-effective manner. These operating practices contain requirements to ensure that hand-operated switches are returned to the proper position after use. In 2009, the first full year the regulation was in effect, accidents decreased 32 percent. As the technology to meet this recommendation is not currently available, and there are no efforts to create it, FRA believes that the existing regulation is effective at decreasing the number of accidents similar to the April 28, 2015, accident. FRA ~asks NTSB to close Safety Recommendation R-18-10.

From: FRA
Date: 5/17/2018
Response: -From Karl Alexy, Deputy Associate Administrator for Railroad Safety: Thank you for the railroad accident brief Southwestern Railroad Collision, which was sent to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on April 26, 2018. In the "Recommendations" section of the report, NTSB issued Safety Recommendation R-18-10 to FRA, and reiterated Safety Recommendations R-10-01, R-10-02, and R-12-27. Improving safety is FRA's top priority, and FRA will continue to work to make rail shipments as safe as possible. FRA is committed to working with NTSB to prevent future accidents and save lives. FRA welcomes and will consider all recommendations that will further that goal.

From: NTSB
Date: 4/26/2018
Response: On April 26, 2018, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) adopted its accident brief, Southwestern Railroad Collision, Roswell, New Mexico, April 28, 2015, RAB-18/04. The details of this accident brief and the resulting safety recommendations may be found in the accident brief, which can also be accessed at Among the safety recommendations is one issued to the Federal Railroad Administration, and three reiterated to the Federal Railroad Administration, which can be found on page 15 of the report. The NTSB is vitally interested in these recommendations because they are designed to prevent accidents and save lives. We would appreciate a response within 90 days, detailing the actions you have taken or intend to take to implement these recommendations. When replying, please refer to the safety recommendations by number. We encourage you to submit your response to If it exceeds 10 megabytes, including attachments, please e-mail us at the same address for instructions. Please do not submit both an electronic copy and a hard copy of the same response.