Climate change may be causing railroad track damage

Railroad tracks have to be sturdy to withstand the stress caused by supporting heavy trains. And it is not uncommon for tracks to become damaged through the wear and tear of normal use. So for this reason, it is imperative that railroad companies carry out routine checks and maintenance of the tracks upon which their trains run.

As we reported in a previous blog post, derailments are the primary cause of train accidents. And while there are any number of reasons that a track may become damaged, recent years have seen the advent of a new possible cause: climate change.

Specifically, the increased temperatures caused by climate change could lead to more instances of what are called "sun kinks." A sun kink is a buckle or bend in a track that results from exposure to extreme heat generated by the sun. The heat causes the metal to expand which in turn causes the tracks to curve and misalign. As it stands, sun kinks have already caused over 2000 train derailments within a recent 40-year period, averaging around 50 derailments a year.

And all of this comes during a time when railroads are seeing an increase in use. Ridership has risen significantly on passenger trains and there is a substantial projected increase in the use of freight trains into the year 2040. What's more, many of these freight trains carry high volumes of hazardous materials, which could prove threatening should they spill due to a derailment.

So as things stand, it appears that we may see an increase in the amount of damage that warmer climate conditions could inflict on railroad tracks. This means that railroad companies must be all the more vigilant in performing inspections and repairing broken or weakening tracks.

Victims of train accidents, be they passengers or those outside the train, can suffer the kinds of injuries that require extended hospital stays and long-term treatment, the costs of which could be exorbitant. Therefore, if you or someone in your family is injured in a train-related accident, you may wish to contact a personal injury attorney who can work to get you an appropriate level of compensation.

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