The U.S. Transportation Department will send a special investigative team to New York’s Metro-North Railroad to look at its operations, compliance with regulations and safety culture.
The task force will include technical experts and specialists in human factors, the Federal Railroad Administration said in a statement today. The work will begin Dec. 16 and will be completed in 60 days, it said.
“This in-depth investigation will help ensure that Metro-North is doing everything possible to improve its safety record,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in the statement. “Operation Deep Dive will give travelers the peace of mind they deserve.”
The commuter railroad, operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, had its first passenger deaths on Dec. 1 when a train bound for New York’s Grand Central Terminal derailed on a 30-mile-per-hour (48 kilometer-per-hour) curve while traveling 82 mph, killing four, according to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.
Following other accidents earlier in 2013, Metro-North has already been engaged in a “deep and soul-searching effort” to find and eliminate safety risks, MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg said in an interview.
“While we’re always happy to work with outside experts who have helpful perspectives on safety, make no mistake: Metro-North Railroad has been seriously addressing safety issues all year long,” Lisberg said. “We are scrutinizing all of our operations and taking effective options immediately.”
The railroad administration said it will look at Metro-North’s inspection and repair practices of tracks, signals and train cars. It will also examine operations control centers, compliance with federal regulations, fatigue management and oversight of locomotive engineers.
The U.S. rail agency previously ordered Metro-North to use two-person crews in certain areas and improve its signaling system to ensure speed limits are followed.
Metro-North has added technology at the Spuyten Duyvil curve in New York City, the site of the Dec. 1 wreck, to warn approaching trains of a speed-limit decrease and automatically slow them if people at the controls fail to act, the MTA said.
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