Meridian-bound train derails in Alabama

Mar. 12—A freight train traveling from Atlanta, Georgia, to Meridian derailed Thursday in eastern Alabama.

In an emailed statement, Norfolk Southern said the derailment occurred near Piedmont, Alabama, and the railroad is working with local officials in responding to the incident.

"There are no reports of injuries and no reports of a hazardous materials release," the railroad said.

The Calhoun County Journal reported the derailment took place about 6:45 a.m. The Calhoun County Sheriff's Office said a section of track is damaged and multiple cars have derailed, but there is no danger to the surrounding community, the Journal reported.

Norfolk Southern operates more than 200 miles of tracks throughout Mississippi and more than 1,300 miles of tracks in Alabama. Meridian serves an important role for the railroad as the host of one of two rail yards in the state and the railroad's sole Rail-Truck Transfer Facility.

Meridian also plays an important role as one end of The Meridian Speedway, a jointly operated, 320-mile route between Norfolk Southern and Kansas City Southern that runs from Meridian to Shreveport, Louisiana. According to Norfolk Southern, the Speedway is the most direct route for moving freight from the West Coast to the Southeast Region.

Norfolk Southern has come under scrutiny in recent weeks following a February 3 train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. The derailment included several cars carrying vinyl chloride, a toxic material that officials decided to burn off. The fire forced the evacuation of more than 2,000 residents and caused others to claim illness caused by the fire and smoke.

As Alabama officials responded to the derailment in Piedmont, Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw appeared before Congress to apologize and pledge his company's support for East Palestine.

On Tuesday the National Transportation Safety Board announced an investigation into safety practices at the railroad citing numerous incidents in the recent past.

"Given the number and significance of recent Norfolk Southern accidents, the NTSB also urges the company to take immediate action today to review its safety practices, with the input of employees and others, and implement necessary changes to improve safety," the NTSB said in a prepared statement.

The Federal Railroad Administration, which is under the U.S. Department of Transportation, announced it will be conducting a 60-day supplemental safety assessment of Norfolk Southern as well. The assessment will look at everything from training and procedures to maintenance and risk assessments.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a prepared statement his agency is encouraging the railroad to take action to address issues and improve safety.

"After a series of derailments and the death of one of its workers, we are initiating this further supplemental safety review of Norfolk Southern, while also calling on Norfolk Southern to act urgently to improve its focus on safety so the company can begin earning back the trust of the public and its employees," he said.