The nation’s second-largest commuter railroad, Metro-North, let passenger safety lapse, a federal review released Friday says.
The eview began in December after a Metro-North train derailed in the Bronx, N.Y., killing four passengers and injuring 77 passengers and eight employees.
The Federal Railroad Administration says Metro-North’s “strong emphasis on on-time performance,” combined with increased train activity, “appears to have led managers and supervisors to allow inspections, maintenance and employee training to lapse.”
Metro-North trains, which operate in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, carried 81 million passengers last year, according to FRA data.
The federal agency says that Metro-North’s focus on on-time performance “led to a deficient safety culture that has manifested itself in increased risk and reduced safety.”
Besides the Dec. 1 accident in the Bronx, there were three other “high-profile accidents last year involving Metro-North or its tracks, , the FRA says:
•On May 17, an eastbound train traveling 74 mph derailed in Bridgeport, Conn., and stopped on an adjacent track. About 20 seconds later, a westbound train collided with the derailed train. Metro-North spokesman Aaron Donovan says 120 passengers and 10 employees were injured.
•Eleven days later, the FRA says, a Metro-North train traveling 70 mph in West Haven, Conn., struck and killed a Metro-North employee performing railroad maintenance.
•On July 18, a CSX Transportation freight train derailed while traveling on Metro-North’s track. No one was injured, but property damage was significant, the FRA says.
The federal agency directs Metro-North’s senior leadership to immediately “prioritize safety above all else.” That priority must be immediately implemented and communicated to employees, the FRA says.
The FRA ordered Metro-North to submit within 60 days a plan to improve its safety department’s “mission and effectiveness.”
The staff of the safety department must conduct safety meetings “at all levels of the organization” and provide “appropriate in-person monitoring of field activities and personnel,” the FRA says.
Metro-North must also submit within 60 days a plan to improve its training program, and the railroad was ordered to “take corrective action to ensure that accurate records are created, maintained and readily accessible” to employees.
Metro-North President Joseph Giulietti says the FRA’s review is “important,” and the agency has recommended “significant improvements.”
“Metro-North is taking aggressive actions to affirm that safety is the most important factor in railroad operations,” Giulietti says, “and we welcome the FRA’s continued involvement to help Metro-North establish a consistent safety-first culture throughout the railroad.”