by: Kevin Clark, Action News Jax Updated:
A CSX conductor said the company is consolidating trains because of job cuts, and that’s why there are more neighborhoods being blocked.
Louis Billingsley has worked for CSX since 2006, and is a conductor for a route from Jacksonville to Waycross.
He tells Action News Jax the company has combined auto rack trains with freight trains in order to save manpower after job cuts.
“Instead of it being two 7,000-foot trains it’s (one) 14,000 foot,” Billingsley said. “And they’re doing that to save crews.”
Earlier this month, we told you up to 700 more jobs could be cut by the Jacksonville-based company.
The workforce has already been trimmed by 2,300 employees. The fleet has been trimmed by 900 locomotives and could be trimmed 100 more.
He said longer trains are blocking more neighborhoods.
Billingsley said he even separated a train that blocked a Dinsmore neighborhood for more than two hours Wednesday.
“He was telling me there were elderly people back there,” he said. “And I knew we weren’t going nowhere so I came back here and cut the crossing.”
Ira Anderson lives in that neighborhood and said he and his neighbors are trapped frequently.
He couldn’t get to a doctor’s appointment Wednesday because of the delay.
“You need fire, rescue or police? You’re just out of luck,” he said.
In June, we reported that people climbed a stalled train that blocked their Ortega Hills neighborhood for more than two hours.
Action News Jax has also learned of an uptick in citations from JSO officers for CSX trains that have been blocking neighborhoods over the last few months.
Most of them have been in Baldwin. JSO told Action News Jax citizen complaints brought more officers out to the area.
Billingsley tells Action News Jax seeing people trapped is heartbreaking.
“These trains are getting longer and doubling up,” Billingsley said. “Stocks are going up, that’s all they care about.”
But he said the length of the new consolidated trains also makes his job more challenging.
“I have to walk back here and fix the train, and my radio can’t even reach the engineer it’s so long,” he said.
We reached out to CSX for this story. A company spokesperson responded with a statement that read:
"CSX works to minimize the impact of our operations on neighboring communities while striving to provide safe and efficient service to customers. CSX is evaluating our operations in the Baldwin area to determine if improvements can be made to reduce the effects our neighbors are experiencing, and we apologize for any inconveniences we may be causing.
"Regarding your other questions, CSX is conducting a system-wide operational review and implementing changes to make our operations safer, more efficient and more customer-focused. This includes some changes to our operating rules, which guide our employees in safely doing their jobs. Safety is CSX’s highest priority, and safety is the most important factor in evaluating changes to operating rules."
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