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Frustration grows in West End as a train remains stuck in the neighborhood

Published: Nov. 2, 2021 at 8:11 PM CDT|Updated: Nov. 3, 2021 at 12:55 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A long freight train is still blocking several major intersections in the West End Manor neighborhood of Birmingham.

WBRC confirmed Wednesday with Norfolk Southern that there is a mechanic on site inspecting and repairing the train in order to get it moving.

Neighbors are telling us it hasn’t moved since Thursday of last week and a florist said she’s losing business because of the blockage.

She said this isn’t the first time a train has stopped for a long period of time in the neighborhood.

She said just as Norfolk Southern gets one train moved, another pulls in right behind it and stalls.

Car after car forced to turn around at the intersection of 17th Street Southwest and Jefferson Avenue after being met with the same Norfolk Southern freight train that’s been stalled on the tracks since Thursday of last week.

“This been an ongoing fight for years that went straight to Congress and still hasn’t had any resolve,” said Vice President of the Oakwood Place, Rianna Bass.

She said the blockage is a public safety issue and a headache for commuters making them late for work and school.

“Your GPS won’t reroute you to another direction. You literally have to get out your car to ask someone to reroute you. So, it’s an inconvenience and it’s hindering our lifestyle here,” Bass said.

Tiffany Lewis is the florist and owner of Sandy’s Flowers.

The stalled train is just steps from her front door, which she said is bad for business.

“It’s impacted the business greatly because we cannot get the walk-in customers that’s use to just passing through,” Lewis explained.

WBRC has made several attempts to get an on-camera interview with Norfolk Southern trying to get an answer for when the train will be removed.

Our requests have been denied.

Birmingham city leaders said the stoppage is due to federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates, which have caused a shortage in staffing for the rail company.

Norfolk Southern tells WBRC that the train stoppage is NOT due to a federal vaccine mandate, but there are shortages and logistical challenges across the country in the train industry.

But neighbors said they’re drawing their own conclusions.

“There was a train stuck on the track in Trussville. It’s gone! What’s the problem? What is the excuse? You’re shorthanded, but you got the train off the track in Trussville, which is a Caucasian area predominantly, rich area predominantly. We’re a rich area too! We’re just in a different area. So, what’s the problem? Is it because we’re in the hood you’re gonna make us last?” Lewis said.

Others in the neighborhood have made similar comments.

We’ve spoken to five other people in the neighborhood, and they have all raised the fact that this is a predominantly Black neighborhood and feel that’s part of the reason why the train hasn’t moved.

Around 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, there were signs the train would be moving soon.

The engines were revved up and you could see smoke, but the train still hadn’t moved.

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