Repeated derailments reflect poor governance

Even as residents in East Palestine, Ohio, are still struggling with the aftermaths of a Norfolk Southern train derailment on Feb 3 that released toxic chemicals into the environment, forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes, another train of the same company derailed in the same US state on Saturday.

Fortunately this time, there has been no indication of any risk to public health from the accident in Springfield Township, which saw 28 of the train's 212 cars derailed.

The latest derailment was the fourth in the past five months in Ohio. The high frequency of derailments in the United States cannot but prompt the public to demand an answer to the poor safety record of the country's railroad sector.

Experts have attributed the repeated accidents, most of which are considered to be "preventable", to the industry's long-delayed technological upgrading. It beggars belief that in the US, which is doing all in its power to remain the world's sole technology superpower, many trains still rely on a Civil Warera braking system that was developed in 1886, rather than electronically controlled pneumatic brakes, which are more efficient at making emergency stops.

The American Association of Railroads, a lobbying group to which Norfolk Southern has long been a dues-paying member, has strongly opposed the use of ECP brakes because it thinks they are "extremely costly".

The fact that money calls the shots in the US has made it easy for more advanced technologies and tougher safety regulations to give way to the rail companies' cost-cutting and profit-at-all-cost business model.

Norfolk Southern, which has paid its executives millions of dollars and spent billions of dollars on stock buybacks, has reportedly fired thousands of employees to save costs despite warnings that understaffing would pose safety risks.

When business gets involved in politics, politics becomes a business. It is no secret that after rail industry donors reportedly delivered more than $6 million to GOP campaigns, the Donald Trump administration, in 2017, rescinded the safety regulations proposed by the previous administration aimed at making better braking systems widespread on the country's rails.

All this has made repeated derailments in the US a frequent, and tragic, phenomenon.

Instead of pointing fingers at other countries for their alleged human rights violations, politicians in the US should do some soul-reflection and work to make their own country a safer place to live. That's the only way to answer to the US public which is saying "enough is enough".