Trains may have one man crews in future, residents concerned it's less safe

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - It’s no secret trains can cause destruction. The freight trains that run through Bakersfield weigh between 6,000 and 12,000 tons, conductors say.

In the near future there may be one less set of eyes and ears aboard. If ratified, an agreement made between BNSF Railroad and unions will allow one person to conduct a train.

This has conductors and engineers scared. They told us that it is absolutely necessary to have that extra person to ensure a safe trip. They say that the trains that run through Bakersfield often carry 30,000 gallons of gas and other dangerous chemicals that could wipe out the city.

Lena Kent, Spokeswoman for BNSF, says technology like Positive Train Control takes care of the job an extra person would do. PTC automatically slows and stops a train to avoid an accident.

Local engineers say that PTC is not working in the Valley and that it is suspended until further evaluation. Residents are also concerned about a machine replacing a person.

“I think a person would be better, a computer can always mess up,” Maria Castro-Valdez said. Others think it will save costs and are not worried.

“I don't think it's a safety problem because one guy can drive a train just as well as two guys or 10 people,” Ben Greene said.

The current agreement would affect 60% of BNSF’s rails, most of which would be in the Midwest, though this does not calm the engineers here in Bakersfield. Other local railroads are not currently considering having a one man crew but, if the technology proves effective they would consider it.

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