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Metro-North Crashes Show National Rail Safety Issues

Two Metro-North Railroad accidents this year, one fatal and one that injured dozens of passengers, show rail safety needs more money and attention, a U.S. senator said as regulators began a two-day hearing.

“It’s a national problem,” Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, told reporters before a National Transportation Safety Board hearing in Washington. “Metro-North is just the most visible recent example.”

The NTSB is investigating the infrastructure and maintenance history and practices of the Northeast U.S. commuter railroad following a May 17 crash between two of its trains near Bridgeport, Connecticut. One train derailed as it traveled over broken track and was hit by another headed the opposite way, in a crash Metro-North said caused $18.5 million in damage.

A rail worker died in a second accident 11 days later in West Haven, Connecticut, after being struck by a Metro-North train.

U.S. lawmakers last passed legislation strengthening rail safety in 2008 following a preventable head-on crash in Los Angeles. Blumenthal said it’s time again for “stronger standards for scrutiny and oversight as well as for general maintenance and inspection” of railroads.

“This hearing will illuminate key safety issues from these two accidents, so that the entire industry, from manufacturers to operators to regulators, can benefit from the lessons learned in order to prevent loss of life and injuries in the future,” NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman said at the hearing.

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