The NY Metro North Railroad, the second biggest commuter railroad in the US, has allowed safety to deteriorate significantly while pushing to keep trains running on time. This resulted in a lax culture of poor inspections, bad training, and overuse of cell phones by employees, according to a highly critical federal report that came after a recent deadly derailment.
The Federal Railroad Administration reported to Congress March 14 that Metro-North’s focus on keeping trains on time caused a poor safety culture to develop, which over time increased risk to the breaking point.
The federal report to Congress stated that no single department at Metro-North, including the safety department, really advocates for railroad safety. The railroad carried 844 million riders between NYC and the suburbs in 2013.
This review was started after a Dec. 1, 2013 derailment in the Bronx that killed four and injured 70 more. It also cited three other accidents last year that involved derailments that in total injured more than 50 people and killed one.
FRA Administrator Joe Szabo stated that Metro-North did not set aside enough time to inspect tracks and to maintain them. They also resisted testing crews on the main lines, which is the best place to do it for safety purposes. Their fear was that passenger trains would be delayed.
The agency has ordered the railroad to put a top priority on safety and to spread this idea throughout the organization.
The Metro-North president, Joseph Giulietti, who took his office after the derailment in the Bronx, stated that the report was ‘deeply troubling.
He noted that safety at the railroad was not emphasized, but it will be in the future. He said the railroad is taking aggressive actions, which include a new program that will let workers make confidential phone calls to report safety problems.
The railroad also has changed signals and posted more speed limits. The derailed train in the Bronx was going over 80 MPH as it entered a curve with a 30 MPH speed limit.