Metro-North Railroad – whose train derailment in the Bronx in December killed four passengers and injured approximately 70 others – made being on time a higher priority than being safe, according to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
The report was the result of a comprehensive safety assessment of the railroad known as Operation Deep Dive.
Reduced safety on the system
FRA found that Metro-North’s management “emphasizes on-time performance to the detriment of safe operations and adequate maintenance of its infrastructure, resulting in a deficient safety culture, increased risk and reduced safety on the Metro-North system.”
The report requires Metro-North to submit plans to FRA within 60 days on how it will improve the effectiveness of its safety department and training programs.
A wake-up call
The assessment “should serve as a wake-up call to Metro-North as they work to make their operations safer,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Efficiency and on-time performance are important, but they cannot come before the safety of every passenger on board or those communities along the system.”
The report instructs Metro-North to take the following actions to mitigate risk and to begin a turnaround of the railroad’s safety culture:
- Effective immediately, Metro-North’s senior leadership must put safety front and center, and communicate and implement that priority throughout its organization.
- Within 60 days, Metro-North shall submit to FRA a plan to improve its Safety Department’s mission and effectiveness, including providing appropriate in-person monitoring of field activities and personnel.
- Within 60 days, Metro-North shall submit to FRA a plan to improve its employee training, ensuring that it develops and implements an effective training program for all operating departments.
The assessment directs Metro-North to address twenty-five (25) specific recommendations covering eight (8) safety critical concerns identified by FRA. These include:
- Track safety standards
- Railroad operating rules
- Certification requirements for locomotive engineers and conductors
- Safety training for roadway workers and employees who maintain rolling stock
- Train control systems
- Operations Control Center
- Fatigue management for maintenance-of-way employees
Four serious accidents in 2013
The Bronx derailment was only one of four 2013 incidents cited in the report. The others were a derailment in Bridgeport, Conn., that injured more than 50 people; an accident in West Haven, Conn., that killed a Metro-North worker and a freight train derailment in June in New York City.
Review the entire report on Metro-North.