7 On Your Side: MTA steps up effort to prevent possible train derailments

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Jim Hoffer reports on the MTA taking extra precautions to prevent possible train derailments.

In an effort to prevent rails from breaking and causing delays or even derailment, the MTA says it will double the amount of special rail inspections.

Federal law requires that Metro North and Long Island Rail Road test every mile of track once a year for tiny cracks in the rail. Those cracks can grow and lead to larger cracks and, if undetected, to rail breakage.

The MTA has deployed a special train equipped with high-tech, computerized sensors that inspects the steel rails using electrical current and ultrasonic sound waves to see deep inside, where tiny cracks are hidden.

"You can mitigate rail breaks with this technology," said Jonathan Myers, who heads quality assurance for Metro North.

Myers explains that out of 150 defects in a year, a certain percentage of those breaks can lead to full broken rail.

"We don't want that happening under a train," he said.

It could cause a derailment, which is apparently what happened in May of 2013. A Metro North train heading to the New Haven line derailed and crashed into a southbound commuter train., and 65 people were injured.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined that fatigue cracking caused the joint bars, which holds the rails together, to fail.

The life-saving ultra-sonic inspection train also takes high definition pictures of rail joint bars, so they can be analyzed for potentially dangerous cracks.

The MTA subcontracts with Sperry Rail Service to use the special train to inspect 800 miles of Metro North rail and 700 miles of LIRR track.

This year, for the first time, the MTA is hoping to do the inspections not once as required by law, but twice.

"We move passengers, and we have to mitigate as many risks as we can," Myers said.

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