Connecticut Commuter Crash Hampers Amtrak Boston-New York TrainsAngela Greiling Keane
Investigators are working in Connecticut to gather evidence from yesterday’s collision between two Metro-North Railroad commuter trains so they can restore Amtrak and other rail service between New York and Boston.
The crash involving about 700 passengers in Bridgeport, Connecticut, injured dozens of people, including at least one critically, and is limiting Amtrak service between New York and Boston in one of the worst U.S. passenger rail accidents since 2008.
“We know this is a very important track in the Northeast,” National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman said today in a telephone interview. “It really is up to the railroad to determine when the track is safe.”
Hersman said the crash was causing a “bottleneck” along part of the Northeast corridor. It’s keeping Amtrak from operating between New York and New Haven, Connecticut, while there is only “limited” service between New Haven and Boston, the passenger rail operator said in an e-mailed statement today.
Both Amtrak’s Acela Express and Northeast Regional service between New York Penn Station and Boston are affected. The tracks adjacent to those where the crash occurred are out of service because of construction.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the Metro-North service, said today there was “extensive infrastructure damage” from the crash. “Normal service through this area is not expected to resume until a full investigation is complete, the infrastructure is fully assessed, and repairs are made,” the MTA said on its website.
NTSB investigators should be able to complete their work at the scene today, a first step toward re-opening the tracks, Hersman said.
“We’ve got people who are looking at operations, looking at track, looking at maintenance, looking at survival factors,” she said. “Trying to determine what was the initiating moment is important and then we are able to determine whether it was a human, the equipment, the tracks.”
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy will meet with NTSB officials and Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy as they conduct a brief survey of the Metro-North train crash site today, the state said in an e-mailed statement.
The MTA said a train bound from New York City to New Haven derailed about 6:10 p.m. local time near an I-95 highway overpass in Bridgeport. A train traveling in the opposite direction on an adjacent track then struck the derailed train, the MTA said last night in an e-mailed statement.
The accident prompted an indefinite suspension of Metro-North service in Connecticut between the South Norwalk and Bridgeport stations.
Metro-North runs northward from Grand Central station in Manhattan to serve suburban areas north of New York City and into Connecticut.
The NTSB, based in Washington, investigates all major transportation accidents in the U.S. and determines their causes. Investigations usually take at least several months.
The MTA said that of four tracks in the area, two were already out of service for long-term repairs. The remaining two tracks that were affected by the accident received extensive infrastructure damage because of the collision, the MTA said.
Cranes will be needed to remove the damaged rail cars, which can’t be moved, the MTA said, until investigators have completed their on-scene work.
Along with the NTSB, the MTA police, local authorities, the Connecticut Office of Emergency Management and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are participating in the inquiry. The Federal Railroad Administration, which regulates Metro-North, also is involved in the probe.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has spoken with Malloy to discuss their two states’ efforts in coordinating a response to the wreck, the MTA said.
The MTA is the busiest transit administration in the U.S., according to the American Public Transportation Association. Metro-North provides commuter-rail service between New York City and surrounding suburbs in New York and Connecticut.
MTA’s website says Metro-North Railroad is the second largest commuter railroad in the nation, with a 2012 ridership of almost 83 million and 281,331 passengers weekdays.
The crash may be the worst heavy-rail accident involving a passenger train in the U.S. since a 2008 head-on crash between a Union Pacific Corp. freight train and a Los Angeles Metrolink commuter train that killed 25 people. A collision between two subway trains in Washington, D.C., in 2009 killed nine people and injured dozens.
Railroads have sought an extension to a 2015 deadline for installing accident-avoidance technology on passenger lines and tracks where hazardous materials are moved.
Congress imposed the adoption of so-called positive train control, which can automatically stop a train before it hits another, after the Los Angeles crash in which the operator of the commuter train was texting.