Ex-NTSB Member Hits Railroad Moves

Article excerpt

New railroad safety regulations and more emergency exit windows on MARC trains are no guarantee against future crashes like the one that killed 11 persons a week ago, a former National Transportation Safety Board member said yesterday.

Railroad executives should be installing the kinds of risk-reduction equipment used on airplanes, said Vernon L. Grose, 67, who headed NTSB investigations on two train crashes in 1983 and 1984.

Mr. Grose may testify Tuesday before the joint Maryland Senate-House Committee on Federal Relations in Annapolis.

He called "ridiculous" an announcement by Maryland Transportation Administration officials that $6.5 million would be spent to replace all windows on the 110 MARC trains with windows that could be opened in emergencies. Witnesses said the eight Job Corps student passengers died by fire after they were unable to break the windows and escape.

"To fix those windows is ridiculous," he said, saying such windows cannot be opened when passenger cars roll over on their sides, or when the twisting of the cars caused by a collision clamps the windows tight shut.

"They're putting Band-Aids on cancer," Mr. Grose said. "Their motive is to placate the public."

But MARC officials stressed they are going beyond required federal regulations to assure the safety of passengers and crew members.

"In an effort to keep our commitment to safety, we want to go beyond the Federal Railroad Administration regulations. That's why we're moving forward with the additional safety features announced [Wednesday]," said MARC spokesman Anthony Brown. …