Metro-North commuter railroad sacrificed safety for speed: regulator

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 14, 2014 11:40 AM

By Chris Francescani

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Metro-North Railroad, the U.S.' second-largest commuter railroad which serves an estimated 83 million people annually in the New York metropolitan area, has an "overemphasis of on-time performance" ahead of safety, according to a federal review released on Friday.

The far-reaching probe by the Federal Railroad Administration was prompted by a December 2013 derailment on Metro-North's Hudson line that killed four people and wounded 70. The incident prompted the railroad's then-president Howard Permut to step down in January.

The report, called "Operation Deep Dive," also detailed three other accidents on the railroad in 2013, which killed one and injured 50, some seriously.

"The findings of Operation Deep Dive demonstrate that Metro-North has emphasized on-time performance to the detriment of safe operations and adequate maintenance of its infrastructure," the report said. "This is a severe assessment and it is intended as an urgent call to action to Metro-North's leadership."

Metro-North's new president, Joseph Giulietti, said in a statement that the commuter railroad would undertake "aggressive actions to affirm that safety is the most important factor in railroad operations."

The report requires Metro-North, which is a subsidiary of a New York state's Metropolitan Transportation Authority, to submit plans within 60 days to improve employee training and safety on the rail line.

Metro-North carries commuters between Manhattan's Grand Central Terminal and the suburbs north of the city as well as cities and towns along Long Island Sound as far as New Haven, Connecticut.

(Reporting by Chris Francescani; editing by Scott Malone and G Crosse)