Citing an increase in train derailments, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board called for more frequent and more detailed inspections.
Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) statistics show that derailments rose from 1,741 in 1997 to 2,206 in 2001, a 27% increase.
NTSB Chairwoman Marion Blakey testified Thursday before the House Transportation Railroads Subcommittee that the FRA needs to increase track inspections, also calling for new technologies in performing the work.
FRA Administrator Allan Rutter acknowledged the rise in derailments, but said the agency is working to address the problem.
Only 400 federal and 150 agency-trained state inspectors are relegated to 230,000 miles of track. The FRA is adding 12 additional track inspectors this year and another 12 next year, Rutter said.
The House subcommittee called the hearing following several recent train accidents.