FRA Issues Emergency Order to Metro-North Rail

The Dec. 1 derailment was the fourth accident for the New York State Metropolitan Transportation Authority's company this year, causing FRA to have "significant concerns with regard to the railroad's compliance" with federal regulations and its own operating rules.

The Dec. 1 derailment in New York City of a Metro-North Commuter Railroad Company train that killed four passengers and hurt more than 60 others has brought a swift emergency order from the Federal Railroad Administration directing the company to submit a plan to FRA for controlling passenger trains' speed at any main track location where a reduction in the maximum authorized speed of more than 20 mph is in place.

The latest derailment occurred about 7:20 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 1, when a southbound train derailed while traveling 82 mph in a sharp curve where 30 mph was the maximum authorized speed, and it is the fourth accident involving the New York State Metropolitan Transportation Authority's company this year. "This is a serious overspeed event and when considered in the context of three other accidents that occurred on Metro-North earlier this year, FRA has significant concerns with regard to the railroad's compliance with Federal railroad safety regulations and the railroad's own operating rules," the DOT agency's Emergency Order No. 29, Notice No. 1, published Dec. 11 in the Federal Register, states.

The NTSB reviewed brake inspection records for Dec. 1 and found no problems with the control cab locomotive's brakes, and no problems with the track section in question or signals have been found that could have contributed to the derailment, according to the order.

The previous 2013 accidents occurred in May and July. One was a derailment in Bridgeport, Conn., and may have involved track problems, according to the description in the order. Another occurred in West Haven, Conn., when a passenger train traveling at 70 mph struck and killed a maintenance-of-way employee, and the order states that a trainee "apparently removed the [computer] blocking devices [that set signals to prevent trains from entering a work group's working limits] without notifying the roadway work group," which is prohibited by FRA regulations. The third one was a derailment of a CSX Transportation, Inc. freight train traveling over Metro-North's system.

Until Metro-North completes the required changes, the order requires that two qualified railroad employees must be present in control compartments of its passenger trains when they operate over locations on main track where a reduction in the maximum authorized speed of more than 20 mph is in place.

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