Westside stopped train impacts first responders, adds upwards 8 minutes to response times

Published: Nov. 2, 2021 at 6:33 AM CDT|Updated: Nov. 2, 2021 at 2:13 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Four days later and a train is still blocking a busy West Birmingham intersection. The operating company, Norfolk Southern, told WBRC Monday afternoon that the train would be moved but by that night. As of today, a week later it is still there.

Trains stopped on tracks for days is not only an inconvenience to the people who live near tracks but it puts a strain on first responders like Birmingham Fire and Rescue.

“In our business, time is of the essence,” Captain Bryan Harrell with Birmingham Fire and Rescue said.

That time, according to Cpt. Harrell can be the difference between life and death.

“With heart attacks, that golden minute is the time when your heart pumps blood to your body or pumps blood to your brain and if we can respond fast to that timeframe, it’s a better chance of us helping that patient and possibly saving their life,” Cpt. Harrell explained.

When delayed trains block roads first responders have to find alternate routes.

Harrel said the most recent halt on the Westside of Birmingham forced emergency responders to find alternate routes, adding 5-8 minutes to their response time.

BFRS has called rail companies in the past and they have moves a train for them, according to Harrell but it was unclear if that call has been made in this instance.

However, Harrell who’s been with BFRS for 25 years said it’s a problem they deal with too often but have grown to adapt to.

“Our biggest industry was the steel mills years ago, so coming up in this environment we are used to the train tracks so we have learned alternate routes and how to adapt. It would be better if the trains weren’t there sometime because it is an inconvenience. But, we are used to it,” Harrell explained.

Norfolk Southern released the following statement concerning the blockage:

‘The nation is experiencing unprecedented shipping and logistics challenges. The railroad is not immune – though we are working to be a part of the solution. However, these conditions have resulted in more delays and congestion than usual, which is why some communities, especially around our hubs, are seeing more trains waiting to move. These two trains were tied down as part of that congestion. One of these trains is either moving now or about to be. We know it’s an inconvenience, and we’re working hard to keep things moving for our customers and communities.”

Federal Rail Authority encouraged citizens to report any blocked crossing they have observed or experienced within the past seven days using the Blocked Crossing Incident Reporter.


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