Growing length of U.S. freight trains in federal crosshairs after crashes: GAO

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SEATTLE (Reuters) – The investigative arm of the U.S. Congress is launching a probe into the safety of increasingly long freight trains being operated by CSX Corp (CSX.O), Union Pacific Corp (UNP.N) and other major U.S. railroads to boost profitability, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) said.

FILE PHOTO: A CSX freight train crosses the Potomac River in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, U.S. on October 16, 2012. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File Photo

Train length is currently unregulated. Any push to add rules would likely face stiff industry opposition because railroads use longer trains to boost margins through the better use of fuel, locomotive power, and rail cars without having to add extra crew.

In addition to the GAO study, safety regulator the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has beefed up its presence at CSX rail yards, according to CSX employees and SMART Union Chairman Dale Barnett, citing conversations with FRA inspectors.

FRA spokesman Marc Willis…



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