ACE train derailment raises track maintenance questions

- The section of track where an ACE train derailed on Monday had been inspected less than 24 hours before the derailment, but crews did not see any issues with the rails.

KTVU found out the tracks in Niles Canyon were inspected at  5:00 a.m. Monday by Union Pacific crews due to a weather alert, but found no issues with the tracks.

Later that evening an ACE train passed through the area at around 6:30 p.m. with no problems and did not report seeing a mudslide or downed tree, according to Union Pacific Spokesman Francisco Castillo.

Sometime after 6:30 p.m. a mudslide brought down a tree that landed on the tracks. It caused an ACE train to derail around 7:30 p.m. and injured nine people.

“If we knew this mudslide was going to occur, I guarantee you there would have been some measures in place that made the train go slower than normal or not pass through there at all,” Castillo said.

Castillo said Union Pacific has numerous track maintenance crews that inspect rails twice a week with various technologies to detect even the slightest imperfections in the rails.

“Union Pacific has a robust track inspection program in California, more than any other state,” he said. “We exceed federal regulations of what’s required.”

The stretch of rail between San Jose and Stockton services about one to three Union Pacific trains and eight ACE trains on a daily basis. That is why Castillo said Union Pacific continues to invest billions of dollars in their infrastructure to keep people safe.

“We’re confident our rails are safe,” he added. “We’ll continue to follow the track inspections at the federal level and even exceed them.”

Castillo said a few concrete ties and clips at the end of the ties need to be replaced, but other than that there was no major damage to the tracks.

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