The Federal Railroad Administration has released their 60-day review of the Metro-North commuter railroad, which transports thousands of travelers to and from New York City every day.
The report blasted Metro-North for their “deficient safety culture” that opened the door for fatal accidents like the crash that killed four and injured almost 70 last December. The report says that Metro-North made meeting schedules a priority over safety.
The FRA gave Metro-North an emergency order to change its signaling system and implement other safety fixes that could have prevented that crash. The driver caught himself dozing off at the controls but not in time to prevent the derailment.
The assessment, called "Operation Deep Dive," found that “Metro-North’s management emphasizes on-time performance to the detriment of safe operations and adequate maintenance of its infrastructure, resulting in a deficient safety culture, increased risk and reduced safety on the Metro-North system. The report requires Metro-North to submit plans to FRA within 60 days on how it will improve the effectiveness of its safety department and training programs.”
Metro-North’s president, Joseph Giulietti, who took office after the derailment, called the report “deeply troubling” and that it confirms his “initial assessment of Metro-North’s culture and priority.”
“Safety was not the top priority,” said Giulietti. “It must be. And it will be. I have a clear message for our customers and our employees: Safety must come first at Metro-North. I will not allow any Metro-North trains to run unless I’m confident that they will run safely.”
Guilietti added that Metro-North was changing aspects of their operations, including track inspections, maintenance, staffing, and training. Metro-North will also install cameras and Positive Train Control on all of their trains.
Positive Train Control is a control system installed on a train that can, among other things, stop and slow a train. It is connected to other trains and operation stations through GPS. It stops or slows a train if it senses it is about to miss a critical task.
The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 requires that Positive Train Control be installed on nearly all trains in the U.S. by the end of next year.
2013 was a bad year for Metro-North safety. Along with the December 1 derailment, there were three other incidents with Metro-North systems. Fifty people were injured in a derailment in Connecticut, a Metro-North worker was killed in another and a freight train derailed in New York City, causing significant property damage.