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Articles by Isaiah Thompson

Isaiah Thompson is a reporter at the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, an independent, nonprofit news center based at Boston University and WGBH News. He can be reached at and on Twitter at @isaiah_thompson.

Featured Article

The following story was reported by Isaiah Thompson of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting and published here in collaboration with Grist. NECIR trains the next generation of journalists in investigative reporting with summer high school workshops in Boston. Click here to learn more and apply today.

Despite the terrible derailment of an Amtrak train last week and a spate of other fiery accidents involving trains carrying flammable crude oil — five so far this year — railroad industry and government officials have taken pains to reassure the public of rail transportation safety.

2014 was “the safest year on record for the railroad industry,” the Association of American Railroads has boasted in web “advertorials” and statements to news organizations.

But it’s a claim that, under scrutiny, doesn’t completely hold up to the numbers.

A review of federal reports and railroad safety data by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting suggests that while rail is much safer than it was in recent decades, at least some indicators of safety have gotten worse, not better, over the past few years:

Accidents involving fires have at least ... Read more