CONGRESSMAN: TRAINING AT GUILFORD INADEQUATE

CONGRESSMAN: TRAINING AT GUILFORD INADEQUATE

A Maine congressman released data from the Federal Railroad Administration that he said shows Guilford Transportation Industries Inc. is using poorly trained personnel to operate their trains.

Rep. Joseph E. Brennan, D-Maine, said the FRA documents appear to reflect a pattern of disregard by this railroad for the safety of its employees and the general public.Guilford currently is under attack on many fronts. The FRA documents grow out of a strike by 1,200 workers at Guilford's Springfield Terminal Railway, through which it operates the Boston & Maine Railroad, Maine Central and Portland Terminal railroads. It also owns the Delaware & Hudson Railway.

Rep. Brennan said the FRA supplied him with documents from an inspection it conducted on the Springfield Terminal in late November and early December.

He said one note states that the FRA inspectors learned through interviews that the length of the training provided by Springfield Terminal for employees operating locomotives varied widely from a few hours to several days.

While there are no federal requirements for minimum training, Rep. Brennan said: Usually, more than six months of training is required before an employee is permitted to operate a locomotive.

The strike against the Springfield Terminal began in mid-November following the death of a yard worker who had been run over by a runaway freight car. There has been another fatal accident since then, when a worker hired during the strike was crushed between freight cars.

The United Transportation Union claims its members are on strike because of the poor safety conditions on the line; Guilford maintains its safety standards are acceptable and refuses to recognize the strike.

Guilford is trying to operate through the strike, although indications are its traffic is way below normal.

The Interstate Commerce Commission is investigating the service levels Guilford is providing to shippers and the FRA is conducting a full-scale safety audit of the carrier.

Meanwhile, an arbitrator will hold a hearing Wednesday on the UTU's request for arbitration to end the long strike, the second against Springfield Terminal in two years.

Guilford has refused to accept the arbitration, so the hearing Wednesday is a preliminary step toward involving the National Mediation Board in the dispute.