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Risk Anal. 1991 Jun;11(2):333-8.

A note on the influence of rail defects on the risk associated with shipping hazardous materials by rail.

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  • 1Department of Civil Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213.


Existing approaches to routing hazardous material shipments by rail recognize that track condition is an important influence, but have not included it in the risk assessment and routing models. This note explores the influence of track condition based on predictions of internal defects in the rail. The method developed predicts the expected frequency of accidents and subsequent consequences in terms of the expected number of fatalities accounting for one aspect of track condition-internal defects. It is intended to indicate the magnitude and impact of track condition. The formulation integrates models of consequences and the risk of a hazardous spill found in the literature with the frequency of accidents as a function of the number of defects. The number of defects may be based on observations or predicted as a function of the cumulative traffic. The models are used to calculate the expected number of fatalities per year for a particular route. Application of the methodology to a hypothetical route shows that the risk associated with the transportation of hazardous material shipments varies significantly with the expected number of defects in the track. Therefore, risk not only varies from route to route but over time for any section of track as the condition deteriorates.

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