Metro-North to Upgrade Signals After Wreck

Acting quickly on December 8 after the Federal Railway Administration ordered enhanced safety precautions following the fatal Metro-North crash on December 1, Metro-North Railroad said it had enhanced its signal systems to warn trains approaching the slow-speed curve at Spuyten Duyvil in the Bronx.  In addition, if the train is within the curve and exceeding the 30-mph speed limit, brakes will be applied, according to reporting by Matt Flegenheimer and Vivian Yee in The New York Times (December 9).  The Federal order also required Metro-North to institute enhanced safety precautions at all places where the speed limit drops by 20 mph or more; Metro-North said it would comply by reducing the maximum allowable speed in advance of such places, so that the speed would not drop by more than 20 mph.

One possible contributing factor in the Dec. 1 wreck was the lack of an “alerter” system in the engineer’s cab; such systems sound alarms if the engineer does not make any change in the controls for a specified interval of time.  Such systems were already in service on about two-thirds of the Metro-North fleet; Metro-North promised that they would be in service in all cabs within one year.

The federal order further ordered Metro-North have a second person in the cab of all trains to verbally confirm that speed limits are followed at dangerous locations; Metro-North said they would comply by having conductors stand with the engineer at such places.  If the train layout makes this impossible, the engineer and conductor would communicate by radio; this might be required where separate locomotives are at the front of the train, making access from the train cars difficult.  The long-term solution will be automatic systems to control speeds at curves; Metro-North said that their technical staff is developing plans to automatically enforce speeds at curves by March, and at drawbridges on the New Haven Line by September.

Read the complete article (limited access) at