railwayMetro North Railroad comes in for some harsh criticism in a report issued this week by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) about five accidents involving the company’s trains that occurred within less than a year.

The special investigation report found common organizational factors in the accidents, which took place between May 2013 and March 2014. A total of six people were killed and 126 injured in the incidents.

According to the NTSB, Metro North:

  • Had safety programs in place but didn’t use them to effectively used to manage the safety of its operations and employees
  • Did not effectively investigate accidents and incidents to identify and fix safety deficiencies, and
  • Did not correct known deficiencies.

The NTSB also criticized the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), whose oversight allowed safety gaps that lead to the accidents to exist.

Had previous NTSB recommendations been implemented by the FRA, many of the safety issues encountered in these accidents could have been prevented, the report noted.

Deteriorating track conditions

“Examination of the FRA’s national inspection program revealed that its system for prioritizing enforcement efforts was ineffective and that current methodology may not be effective in identifying systemic safety issues. This resulted in a lower FRA presence at Metro-North while track conditions were deteriorating, which increased the risk of a catastrophic accident.”

“Metro-North and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority have much work yet to do," said NTSB Acting Chairman Christopher A. Hart. “The FRA has much work to do as well. Railroad safety across the country depends on the FRA turning decisively to the task.”

From safety protocols to sleep apnea

The NTSB issued recommendations to the FRA, Metro-North, and the MTA, as well as several other entities. The recommendations address Metro-North safety policy and safety programs, safety protocols, rules on screening for obstructive sleep apnea and other sleep disorders, and track inspection plans.

An abstract of the special report is available at: http://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/reports/2014/DCA14SS005_Abstract_Metro_North_Railroad_Accidents.pdf

Last month the NTSB released accident briefs identifying the probable causes of these accidents.