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Gov. Cuomo Calls on MTA to 'Expedite' Safety Upgrades

Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent a letter to MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast today calling on the railroad to make a number of safety enhancements, following Sunday's deadly derailment.

Metro North crews repair the tracks. Credit: Metro North
Metro North crews repair the tracks. Credit: Metro North
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing MTA officials to install automated speed control on sensitive tracks throughout Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road and carry out other safety measures following Sunday's train derailment in the Bronx that killed four passengers and injured about 60.

Cuomo outlined his concerns in a letter sent to MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast earlier today.

While operator error may have been the 'initiating cause', Cuomo called on the MTA to be proactive in instituting extra safety upgrades throughout its railroad system.

"Various state and national agencies are now examining Mr. Rockefeller’s conduct," Cuomo wrote. "I am sure that the MTA is also taking the necessary disciplinary measures. With that being said, we must take this moment to pause and explore what new measures can be implemented by the MTA to make Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road the safest rail system in the world. New York’s commuters deserve nothing less."

The train's engineer, William Rockefeller, apparently "zoned out" while operating the train south to New York City, according to news reports. The train was going 82 mph—well past the 30 mph speed limit— as it hit the curve at the confluence of the Harlem and Hudson rivers.

Cuomo is calling on MTA officials to 'expedite' their installation of automated speed control for vulnerable track locations across the Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road systems, including those areas where there is a significant speed change.

He is also said the MTA needed to begin positive train control safeguards. Positive train control is system of safeguards for monitoring and controlling train movements.

"Furthermore, I am requesting you to confer with all relevant personnel and experts to identify what actions can be taken before [positive train control] is installed, and design recommendations to address hazards revealed in Sunday’s derailment in the immediate and long-term future," Cuomo's wrote.

He also made these recommendations:

  • Implementing regular safety stand-downs to reinforce a safety culture among MTA employees, similar to the immediate safety stand-downs I previously directed you to conduct this week.
  • Participating in the Federal Railroad Administration’s Confidential Close Call Reporting System, which provides a way for front-line employees to anonymously warn of potential safety hazards without fear of retribution.
  • Identifying technical solutions to enforce speed control, compliance with operating rules, engineer alertness and any other measures that can improve safety for New York commuters.

MTA officials have yet to issue a response to Cuomo's letter.

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