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Transportation Safety Board Issues Report on Metro-North Accidents

A 2013 Metro-North train derailment in Bridgeport injured 65 commuters.
A 2013 Metro-North train derailment in Bridgeport injured 65 commuters.
Credit Steve Guttman / Creative Commons
Creative Commons
On December 1, 2013 a Metro-North train derailed near the Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx.
The Bronx derailment was due to a sleep-deprived engineer.

The National Transportation Safety Board has released a report that outlines the causes of five recent accidents on Metro-North railroad. Those accidents include the 2013 derailment and collision of two Metro-North trains in Bridgeport that injured 65 commuters, the death days later of a track foremen who was struck by a Metro-North train in West Haven, and the derailment in the Bronx last December that killed four people and injured more than 70.

The NTSB investigation concluded that the Bridgeport derailment was the cause of broken joint bars. The board found that Metro-North deferred regular track maintenance on that section of track, and lacked a comprehensive maintenance program.

The death of track foreman Robert Luden was the result of a trainee track controller who mistakenly canceled the signals that would have protected Luden. Six years ago, the NTSB recommended a redundant signal to avoid this very mistake, but the Federal Railroad Administration never adopted the measure.

The Bronx derailment near the Spuyten Duyvil station was due to a sleep-deprived engineer. The investigation concluded that engineer William Rockefeller had an undiagnosed sleep apnea condition that caused him to nod off at the controls.

The accident scene in The Bronx on December 1, 2013.
Credit NTSB
The accident scene in The Bronx on December 1, 2013.

The NTSB had recommended screening for sleep apnea 12 years ago, but again was never adopted by the FRA. The NTSB also said technology known as positive train control would have stopped the speeding train was not in use in the accident. Metro-North said it is working to install the technology.

Senator Richard Blumenthal credited Metro-North for complying with many of the NTSB's safety recommendations after the accidents, but had scathing words for the FRA. "There will be more deaths and injuries and dollar costs around the country if the FRA continues to fail to do it's job," he said.

The NTSB said it will release an additional report next month, and it's expected that the safety board will issue more recommendations aimed at preventing these types of accidents in the future.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.

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