Metro-North responds to critical federal review

Jim Hoffer has the story from Grand Central.
March 18, 2014 7:55:32 PM PDT
Metro-North is responding to a Federal Railroad Administration report that says the commuter railroad has a "deficient safety culture."

The report found that Metro-North prioritized on-time performance above safety and maintenance, which "increased risk and reduced safety on the Metro-North system," according to a FRA release.

The railroad's operations control center pressured workers to rush when responding to signal failures, according to the report, and workers had trouble getting time to make essential repairs. It found that the use of cellphones "appeared to be commonplace and accepted by maintenance-of-way employees," and that employees used phones inappropriately.

Metro-North's new president, Joseph J. Giulietti, said the railroad is taking "aggressive actions" to assure that safety is its top priority. The report also noted that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates Metro-North, has made several changes since the derailment, including modifying signals and posting speed limits.

Metro-North says it is improving how the railroad trains and monitors employees and is installing cameras in all trains. In addition, employees can report safety problems confidentially.

The FRA ordered Metro-North to submit plans of action within 60 days, and planned to meet monthly with the railroad.

It also noted that it was "encouraged by the many good employees" who met with investigators.

The review was prompted by a Dec. 1 derailment in the Bronx that killed four passengers and injured about 70 others. But it also cited three other accidents in the past year: a March derailment in Bridgeport, Conn., that injured more than 50 people; a May accident in West Haven, Conn., that killed a Metro-North worker; and a July freight train derailment in New York City that resulted in "significant" property damage. The Associated Press contributed to this story.