NEW YORK — The Metro-North commuter railroad has allowed an overemphasis on train times to “routinely” overshadow its safety operations, according to a Federal Railroad Administration review.
“Metro-North must never compromise safety in the interests of the reliability of its train schedule or the efficiency in its railroad operations,” said the report prepared for release today.
The review was prompted by a Dec. 1 derailment in the Bronx that killed four passengers and injured about 70 others. But it delves into a wide range of operations at the railroad, which primarily serves New York and Connecticut.
It said employees reported pressure from the railroad’s operations control center to rush when responding to signal failures; workers had trouble getting needed track time to make essential repairs; and cellphone use by track workers “appeared to be quite commonplace.”
Metro-North has to submit plans of action to the FRA within 60 days.
Metro-North’s new president, Joseph J. Giulietti, said the railroad is taking “aggressive actions” to assure that safety is its top priority. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates Metro-North, has already made changes since the derailment.
In addition to the Bronx crash, the report cited a May 17, 2013, derailment in Bridgeport, Conn., that injured more than 50 people, some seriously, and cost “millions” in property damage; a May 28, 2013, accident in West Haven, Conn., that killed a Metro-North worker; and a July 18, 2013, freight train derailment on Metro-North’s system in New York City that resulted in “significant” property damage.
The FRA added that it “is encouraged by the many good employees” who met with investigators. “Their dedication and desire to turn Metro-North into a safe, professional railroad serving the citizens of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will provide Metro-North’s new leadership with a solid foundation upon which to make immediate improvements and effect long-term cultural exchange.”