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STB Imposes Safety Conditions on Conrail Deal

The Surface Transportation Board has decided to make CSX and Norfolk Southern present their safety measures as a condition for approving the acquisition of Conrail

The past summer has been a bad one from a safety point of view, with fatal accidents both on Union Pacific and CSX. Neither railroad was able to quickly get operations back on track: UP's resulting congestion problems are damaging the American economy, and a June derailment on CSX in Virginia is still wreaking havoc with commuter train services in the Washington DC area.

Many blame the problems at UP on the merger with SP which the STB approved 1 years ago, and in an attempt to adress any mistakes made then, the STB is requiring CSX and Norfolk Southern to file safety implementation plans. An extra 45 days has been granted to the railroads to comply, which puts the decision date in May next year.

To clean up the mess at UP, the STB has had to change the rules it set up less than two years ago in order to let other railroads operate over UP tracks -- because UP simply can't move the trains on its own. Time will show wether the STB's off-the-shelf merger approval methods have been sufficiently modified with the new safety requirements.

In the end, the railroads will have to prove that bigger really is better.

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