Burlington Northern Santa Fe, the railroad owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., is being investigated by U.S. regulators after a Seattle television news station questioned its security practices.
The Federal Railroad Administration, which oversees railroads, opened the investigation “late last week” after KOMO 4 News alerted the agency to its upcoming report, Brie Sachse, an agency spokeswoman, said today in a telephone interview.
The report, which aired yesterday, said people were able to board a Burlington train carrying sulfuric acid when the railroad left a locomotive unlocked and unguarded for six hours one night. KOMO quoted unidentified Burlington workers who said moving such a train would be easy and a Minnesota attorney for employees suing the company who said terrorists might take advantage of the circumstances.
The KOMO story “failed to recognize that there are numerous ways to immobilize a parked train such as removing essential equipment, tying down hand brakes or isolating electrical fields on the locomotive,” Burlington said in a statement today. Burlington said it’s “appalled” that KOMO entered a restricted area without permission.
The Fort Worth, Texas-based company said it inspected locomotives last week and found that every one in the area KOMO reviewed was “properly secured.” Burlington Northern’s computer system tracks every rail car, locomotive and train on its network, monitoring whether the cars are loaded, what they’re carrying and how long they remain at a specific spot, the company said.
Burlington Northern is the second-biggest railroad in the U.S., behind rival western carrier Union Pacific Corp.