Three Norfolk Southern trains derail in Pennsylvania

The incident once again calls the railway company into question just over a year after the incident in East Palestine, Ohio.

Three Norfolk Southern trains derailed Saturday morning in Pennsylvania near the town of Bethlem, according to local authorities. They reported that there were no injuries. 

"There was a diesel fuel spill into the Lehigh River from the accident and containment booms have been deployed," the Lower Saucon Township Police Department said in a statement, in which it also reported that one of the detailed cars spilled polypropylene plastic pellets.

Although the police claimed that there are no evacuations in progress because none of the spilled materials are dangerous, they asked residents to "stay out of the area so first responders and Norfolk Southern personnel can continue to assess and work at the scene." The county reiterated the request on its social media accounts:

Norfolk Southern confirmed that there were "no reports of injuries to our crew members" and that there were also "no hazardous material concerns from the railcars."

"Our crews and contractors will remain on-scene over the coming days to cleanup, and we appreciate the public’s patience while they work as quickly, thoroughly and as safely as possible," said the company, which also promised to investigate the incident.

The National Transportation Safety Board, an independent federal agency in charge of investigating transportation accidents, also stated it would look into the causes of the multiple derailments.

Triple derailment

The incident occurred when an eastbound train collided with another that was stopped on the same track, according to statements from a spokesperson for the National Transportation Safety Board reported by local media outlet

A third westbound train collided with debris from the other accident, which had fallen onto the adjacent track. At least two trains ended up partially submerged in the Lehigh River and an unspecified number of cars were left along the two tracks.

Norfolk Southern in the spotlight

The incident comes one year and one month after the derailment of a Norfolk Southern freight train in East Palestine, Ohio. On February 3, 2023, a train derailed near the city, spilling toxic cargo.

The neighbors have since complained to the company, to the Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, and to President Biden, who took a year to visit the area. The president took aim at the railway company, stating that it had been "act of greed that was 100 percent preventable."

Company spokespersons claimed that the East Palestine episode served to improve their response capacity to similar incidents, such as the one this Saturday. This was also stated by the CEO of the company, Alan Shaw, who once again is dealing with another incident. After being under fire for the derailment a year ago, just last week reports emerged that he had received a 37% pay raise despite the incident.

A group of investors, led by Ancora Holdings, are trying to replace Shaw. In a letter to the president of the Board of Directors, they explained their reasons:

We made clear that your current CEO has presided over industry-worst operating results, sustained share price underperformance and an ineffective and tone-deaf response to the preventable derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

It’s alarming that the board rewarded Mr. Shaw with a massive raise and total compensation of $13.4 million during the same year he presided over industry-worst operating results, sustained underperformance and a tone-deaf response to the derailment in East Palestine.