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Students discuss recent train derailments, safety at East Lansing

June 17, 2023
<p>Historic locomotive on display.</p>

Historic locomotive on display.

On June 3, a catastrophic train crash in the Balasore District of Odisha State, India left nearly 300 people dead and 900 injured. This marks another train derailment in 2023 making global headlines for being so lethal, including the Feb. 28 derailment in Tempi, Greece that killed 57 and the East Palestine, Ohio Norfolk Southern crash that released a steady stream of toxic chemicals into the atmosphere.

Michigan State University itself contains many cargo train networks, as well as the East Lansing Amtrak Station that many students use to go to places such as Detroit, Chicago and Florida. With the influx of tragic train stories flooding the news, MSU students discussed how these events have impacted their opinions on East Lansing's railroad systems.

For students like psychology senior Tina Todorova, trains continue to be a reliable method of transportation.

“The news of these horrible train accidents hasn't particularly changed my opinion of MSU train systems,” Todorova said. “I've read up on these incidents, and they're mostly due to long overdue work and upkeep that needed to be done but was ignored and pushed off.”

Todorova said she believes MSU does an efficient job keeping up with their infrastructure to prevent such incidents from happening

“As someone who has used the MSU Amtrak multiple times to go home and uses the popular train systems at home in Chicago frequently, I've never felt threatened or unsafe using the railways," she said.

Kinesiology senior Emma Jeffery said though she always experiences some form of nerves while traveling, trains don't elicit any more anxiety than other means of travel do. For her, Jeffrey said, trains can even be the most peaceful.

“Most of the time you get a whole row to yourself with big seats, they’re cheap, and the view is relaxing," Jeffrey said. "I always have some type of anxiety or nerves traveling anywhere because no form of traveling is necessarily safe. Every form like planes or cars (have) had some freak accidents."

However, Jeffrey said the recent derailments has made her more cautious and a little frightened. Though she's never experienced an issue with East Lansing's Amtrak trains, she said, the accidents have made her consider some factors like train speed.

“The only thing that might be scary is how fast they go," Jeffrey said. "They travel fast and if for some reason they had to come to a quick stop I don’t see how they would be able to, which is concerning.”

Similarly, applied engineering junior Trevor Tognetti said he has never had any issues on the Amtrack.

“I use to use the Amtrak when I was a freshman to get from East Lansing to Chicago, and then took the Metro to get home in the suburbs, but when I got my car up here I have only driven back and forth," Tognetti said. 

Tognetti noted the recent derailments have not affected his opinions on trains because they are not the main mode of transportation in the United States.

“I am not sure if Amtrak is safe, but it was safe when I would take it,” he said.

Political science junior Rebekah Batu said the accidents have made her more afraid to use trains.

“I’m definitely more scared ... now, but it’s not like I really have a better option when I need to get to places like Chicago," Batu said. "I’ll probably just keep using trains when I need them. Good thing I don’t use them too frequently.”

She also said she finds East Lansing Amtrak trains to be safer than others that she’s been on.

“But maybe now after hearing about these stories, I won’t feel that way the next time I get on one," Batu said.

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