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August 5, 2014 Update: Metro-North Safety Improvements Progress

MTA Metro-North Railroad is making immediate improvements to assure the safety of our customers and employees. These new safety protections were directed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in a letter to the MTA, by Emergency Order 29 from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and recommendations issued by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

"Metro-North is taking important steps to improve safety for its customers and employees, and I expect the railroad will continue searching for ways to improve its operations and fully restore its commuters' confidence," said MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast.

Metro-North has completed the following actions:

  • Developed and installed signal system modifications at the Spuyten Duyvil curve, the site of the December 1st derailment, to enable the system to enforce the 30 mile-per-hour speed limit. (Photos of this work are available here). The signal modification at Spuyten Duyvil was done simultaneously and in coordination with work to restore track, power and signal systems there after the derailment.
  • In addition, signal system modifications have been completed ahead of schedule at four remaining critical curves: Yonkers on the Hudson Line, White Plains on the Harlem Line, Jenkins curve in Bridgeport, CT and the Port Chester curve on the New Haven Line. Modifications were also completed ahead of schedule at the Five NHL Movable Bridges: Cos Cob, Norwalk, Westport, Bridgeport and Devon, CT.
  • Prior to completing the signal modifications, we enhanced communication among train crew members to ensure trains were operated at safe speeds at the critical curves and movable bridges in our network. Conductors stood with engineers at each train's control cab as they approached the locations to verbally confirm that speed limits were adhered to. Where the train layout prohibited the conductor from reaching the engineer in a locomotive, they communicated by radio. We also posted speed limit signs at each critical curve location to remind engineers that a speed reduction was coming.
  • Surveyed all main line track locations that require a reduction of more than 20 miles-per-hour from the maximum authorized operating speed.
  • Reduced speed limits at 33 locations in our services both East and West of the Hudson River, in order to eliminate these locations where the speed limit drops by more than 20 miles-per-hour.
  • Enhanced monitoring of compliance with speed restrictions. This monitoring is accomplished by reviewing the event data recorders from randomly selected trains, by sending supervisors to ride trains and observe speeds, and by radar gun enforcement at locations throughout our network. A program utilizing available technology has been implemented to provide for a more efficient process and the program is in a steady state.
  • Engineered and implemented a track modification to provide additional passing clearance for trains at Jenkins curve in Bridgeport, CT.


Additionally, Metro-North is progressing the following actions:

  • Surveyed all main and branch line locations and identified eight locations where permanent speed restrictions are in place.  Installation of permanent speed restriction signs completed.
  • Two-thirds of Metro-North's operating fleet is equipped with "alerter" devices in the engineer's position to ensure that engineers remain responsive. The remaining one-third is equipped with a feature with the same goal, requiring an engineer to apply constant pressure to a hand or foot activated switch. If pressure is removed, the train comes to a stop. By the end of 2014, all older equipment without alerters will be either retrofitted to include them or replaced with new equipment that includes alerters. Installation and testing of alerters on the M3 rail cars has begun and first four cars with alerters are in service.
  • Moving forward on installing inward and outward facing cameras in the operating cabs of all Metro-North trains.
  • Last year, Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road committed $428 million dollars for a contract to begin the installation of a Positive Train Control system, which is regarded as the best signal system available for train control. At Governor Cuomo's direction, we are accelerating our efforts to install PTC as expeditiously as possible. As such, the contract was amended in April to expedite by up to nearly two years the retrofitting of 836 LIRR and 474 Metro-North rail cars to enable them for send and receive Positive Train Control signals. Those retrofits will now be completed by April 2017. The amended contract also will allow the railroads to deploy equipment at 175 locations alongside the tracks that will facilitate communication between the Positive Train Control central computers and the computers on board trains. This move will expedite by up to one year the installation of PTC on territory covering 85% to 90% of the railroads' customers.
  • Implementing the FRA's Confidential Close Call Reporting System, a measure that allows employees to anonymously report safety concerns without fear of reprisal, in order to identify potential problems before they can cause an accident or injury.  The first Implementing Memorandum of Understanding (IMOU) between Metro-North, one labor organization and the FRA has been executed.  Collaboration with other labor unions is underway to reach additional IMOUs. 
  • Initiated a quarterly Safety Stand-Down program re-emphasizing to all employees that safety is the most important factor in railroad operations, and that all employees must operate and communicate effectively with safety as the ultimate goal.
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