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Feds Blast Metro-North Over Recent Safety Record After 4 Serious Accidents

By Janon Fisher | December 4, 2013 8:00pm
 The Federal Railroad Administration threated to exercise control over Metro-North if the rail line's safety record doesn't improve.
Feds blast MTA over safety record
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MANHATTAN — The Federal Railroad Administration called the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's safety record "unacceptable" after a series of major accidents recently on the commuter railway, including the fatal post-Thanksgiving train derailment.

"The specific causes of each of these recent accidents may vary, but regardless of the reasons, 4 serious accidents in less than 7 months is simply unacceptable," FRA administrator Joseph Szabo wrote to the MTA chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast.

On May 17, two Metro-North trains traveling in the opposite direction collided just outside of Bridgeport, Conn, injuring dozens of people.

Again in May, a track worker was struck and killed by a commuter train in West Haven, Conn.

In July, a CSX train derailed in Spuyten Duyvil and Szabo cited the fatal Dec. 1 train wreck.

The federal administrator threatened to exercise their power over that agency if their record does not improve.

"We have significant concerns about the current situation on Metro-North and are actively considering other ways that the Federal Railroad Administration can use its federal oversight authority," Szabo wrote.

He agreed with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's decision to retrain all MTA employees regarding train safety, but said more had to be done.

An MTA spokeswoman told WNYC that the transit agency is working with the feds to upgrade the safety systems on the railway.

Meanwhile, a 25-year veteran NYPD officer and a retired U.S. Army colonel intend to sue the MTA for injuries suffered during the recent crash.

PO Eddie Russell announced Wednesday that he will ask for $10 million in punitive damages, which does not include mental trauma, nerve damage and other injuries suffered from the crash. The officer was hurt while heading into the city from his home in Beacon, NY to work a shift at his second job as a security guard at Rockefeller Center, his lawyer said.

"He's bruised up pretty badly," lawyer Robert Vilensky said.

Former Army officer and dentist Denise William did not specify how much money she wants for her fractured vertebrae. She was riding into the city for a dental convention at the Jacob Javits Center when the train wreck happened.

"Instead, after a preventable derailment caused by negligence of Metro-North, Dr. Williams found herself strewn amonst the wreckage of the train and pinned by protruding trees on the banks of the Hudson River," her lawyer Michael Lamonsoff said. He said that doctors at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital inserted rods and screws in her back.

It wasn't all bad news for the commuter service Wednesday.

A second track was restored on the Hudson Line where the derailment happened and an Metro-North spokeswoman said that the reconstruction on the most severely damaged line continues.