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Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, HBO’s weekly late-night television program which takes a satirical look at news and current events, devoted all of its most recent broadcast to “freight trains.” Prior to the episode premiering on Sunday, December 10, BLET representatives worked closely with the show’s senior producer Chris McDaniel to identify issues in the railroad industry that should be put under a bright spotlight.

Show host John Oliver used his comedic talents combined with a flurry of four-letter words, news clips and an excerpt from a 1984 episode of the animated  “Thomas the Tank Engine,” to expose the effects that deregulation of railroads in the U.S. has had and continues to have on workers and communities.

“I love trains,” Oliver emphasized during his deep dive into freight rail, in which he noted that “nasty” derailments maybe shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the widespread deregulation of the industry more than 40 years ago, leading to self-regulation today.

Among the topics addressed rapid fire in the 30-minute program are PSR, the push for one-person train operations, long trains, blocked crossings, “bomb trains,” the need for more frequent inspections of rail cars, and the importance of confidential reporting without fear of reprisal for rail workers.

The program aired footage of trains carrying hazmat and the host discussed how “lucky” he and the rest of us have been that that an East Palestine or a Lac-Mégantic disaster hasn’t happened in a heavily-populated major urban area.

The host called out the Federal Railroad Administration as a “fairly weak regulator” and he makes a mockery of FRA’s safety films.

Oliver devotes considerable time to the history of PSR and its chief proponent Hunter Harrison. He trashes the former railroad CEO, “darling of Wall Street” whom Wall Street loud mouth Jim Kramer referred to as  “the train whisperer.” Included in the broadcast is an extraordinary piece of video footage from a Congressional hearing where Harrison says that he has “blood all over my hands” due to changes he created  in railroading that reduced safety standards.

Oliver trashes the sick leave policies of the Class I railroads, prior to the changes in leave policies  negotiated this year, singling out BNSF.

Oliver ended the broadcast with a 2023 remake of the “Thomas” show, imagining what would happen if Henry was plying his trade in America today.

You can watch this week’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, on YouTube.