The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Railroads to Workers:
Hurry Up and Rush Safety!

Apr 3, 2023

Current and retired railroad employees at Norfolk Southern recently schooled reporters at the Wall Street Journal about the ridiculous demands faced by safety inspectors. Ever since a wheel bearing on a hazardous chemical car caught on fire and caused a horrific train derailment, a spotlight has been shone on Norfolk Southern’s so-called safety policies.

Wall Street and the railroad industry nonchalantly call their new system of operating “Precision-scheduled railroading,” or PSR. Designed to cut costs, railroads stick to preset schedules and operate with the least number of workers they can. Fewer trains are packed with more cargo. Crews are responsible for longer trains, some as long as 3 miles.

Retirees told reporters that only a few years ago, inspectors used to have 5 to 8 minutes to check railroad car wheels and brakes for damaged components. Now they get written up if trains don’t leave the yard on time. This means inspectors have 30 to 90 seconds to circle all around a rail car and inspect it.

Maybe inspectors wearing jet packs could work that fast, but defying the laws of space and time would still be necessary!