US Orders Metro-North Safety Review

Following the fatal train wreck on December 1, the United States Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on December 12 ordered an “extraordinarily rare” review of Metro-North Railroad’s operations and “safety culture”, according to reporting by Matt Flegenheimer in The New York Times (Dec. 13).  The FRA dubbed the review, expected to last 60 days, “Operation Deep Dive.”  The review will cover all aspects of railroad operations, including procedures at control centers; oversight of locomotive engineers; and maintenance of track, signals, and rolling stock.

The FRA said that the review was in consequence not only of the December 1 disaster, but also of several other incidents this year, including the collision of 2 trains on the New Haven Line in May; the death of a worker a few weeks later (also on the New Haven line) after a trainee dispatcher apparently improperly authorized train movements over track where the worker was working; and a July freight train derailment close to the site of the December 1 wreck.  Such comprehensive safety assessments have been conducted only rarely; the last ones were on the CSX Transportation freight railroad in 2006 and on the  Union Pacific in 1998.  The new safety review follows emergency orders a week earlier requiring Metro-North to institute changes in its signal and control systems, and requiring an extra person in operating cabs at critical points until the changes are in place.

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