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US rail industry defends safety record amid staffing cuts

Multiple large unions say the significant staff cuts railroads have recently made could risk safety.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this April 2, 2021, file photo train consists are formed at Norfolk and Southern Railroad's Conway Yard in Conway, Pa. Even as railroads are operating longer and longer freight trains that can stretch for two miles or more, the companies have drastically reduced staffing levels, prompting unions to warn that moves meant to increase profits could endanger safety and even result in disasters. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

OMAHA, Neb. — Several major unions say the significant staff cuts railroads have made in recent years could jeopardize safety, but the major railroads say the new operating model they have adopted is simply helping them become more efficient and hasn't made the railroads riskier. 

The unions said the freight railroads, which include CSX, Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern, have cut their workforces by more than 22%. 

So now safety inspectors and maintenance technicians are hard-pressed to complete their duties in the time allotted. 

Yet the railroads say safety has been improving overall, and regulators say the data doesn't show a problem with the industry's new operating model.

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