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Federal Agency Orders Metro-North to Add Two-Person Crews to Ensure Safety

By Ben Fractenberg | December 6, 2013 5:01pm
 A federal agency ordered Metro-North to take immediate steps to reduce train speed after Sunday's deadly crash, Dec. 6, 2013.
FRA Metro-North Order
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NEW YORK CITY — The Federal Railroad Administration ordered Metro-North Friday to add two-person crews to their trains and fix their signal system to prevent speeding after Sunday's crash that killed four riders and injured more than 60 others.

The emergency order requires the commuter railway — starting Tuesday — to have two "qualified railroad employees" operate trains where major speed restrictions are in place until safety upgrades are completed. The agency must also provide a safety action plan for signal system modifications to the FRA by Dec. 31.

“Safety is our highest priority, and we must do everything we can to learn from this tragic crash and help prevent future derailments,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said a statement Friday.  “While we assist the National Transportation Safety Board in carrying out its investigation, this Emergency Order will help ensure that other Metro-North trains travel at appropriate, safe speeds.”

The MTA, which oversees Metro-North, said they are "working closely with the FRA" to review policies and procedures after the accident.

"We are examining many other possible steps we can take to improve the safety of our railroad operations and we'll continue making every effort to enhance customer and employee safety," the agency said in a statement.

Metro-North must also provide a list to the feds of track locations where there is a speed reduction of more than 20 miles per hour by Dec. 10.

Additionally, the agency is "ordered to identify appropriate modifications to its existing automatic train control system or other signal systems to enable adequate advance warning of and adherence to such speed restrictions."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo also sent a letter to the MTA saying train engineer William Rockefeller was "the initiating cause of this tragic accident" by allowing the train to travel 82 miles per hour into a curve with a speed limit of 30 miles per hour.

Cuomo called for the MTA to install a computerized speed control system at vulnerable track locations.

"Positive train control (PTC) offers the most comprehensive systemic solution to prevent railroad collisions and speed conditions that can lead to derailments," said Cuomo in the letter, dated Dec. 6. "Implementing PTC on Metro-North and LIRR will be challenging, but this solution must be accelerated so it will be in place for New York commuters as soon as possible."

Cuomo also called for safety actions to be taken before the PTC system is installed including a confidential reporting system for employees to anonymously warn about potential safety hazards.

"[W]e must take this moment to pause and explore what new measures can be implemented by the MTA to make Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road the safest rail system in the world," Cuomo wrote. "New York’s commuters deserve nothing less."