After running a nearly full slate of service on Wednesday, Metro-North restored all service along the Hudson Line for this morning’s rush hour commute. Crews had worked through the day yesterday rebuilding a second track in the area of the derailment, and Sperry Rail Car cleared it for service after ultransonic testing. Today’s morning commute went off without a hitch.
Work on track four — the outer track which had been essentially destroyed — will continue for the remainder of the week. Metro-North reported that yesterday morning’s Hudson Line ridership was approximately 25 percent below normal peak for a Wednesday, but those riders were generally using Harlem Line trains and were expected to return to the Hudson route today. The people who were alleging that they’d turn to a much more dangerous car commute likely did not do so.
Meanwhile, the push-pull setup that Metro-North and many other rail systems employs is coming under fire right now. As Metro-North can’t turn around trains at depots, the engine remains at the northern end of the train. It pulls going north and pushes heading south. The Times reports on the concerns:
The Metro-North Railroad train that derailed on Sunday included a system designed to warn an operator of a potential accident. But such an “alerter,” which can automatically apply the brakes if an operator is unresponsive, was not in the cab where William Rockefeller apparently fell into an early-morning daze at the controls. It was at the other end of the train. On Wednesday, three days after the Manhattan-bound Hudson line train tumbled off the rails in the Bronx, killing four people and injuring more than 70, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said that an alerter system had been installed in the locomotive pushing the train, but not in the front cab, where the engineer was positioned, properly, at the time of the crash…
It is not clear how long before the crash Mr. Rockefeller became inattentive, or whether the alerter system could have prevented the derailment or reduced its severity. It appears likely, though, that if Mr. Rockefeller had experienced a similar episode for an extended period on a northbound trip — when he would have been stationed in the locomotive — the siren might have sounded. In effect, trains configured and equipped like the one in the derailment employ the “alerter” system on only half of their runs.
While much of the safety discussion since the crash has focused on an expensive control system that remains years away from reality for the transportation authority, rail experts have said that a number of lower-cost remedies could have been put in place — and should be in the future — both inside the train and across the system governing it…One potential safety improvement would be ensuring that the alerter systems were installed in every cab. The authority had said that new cars would include the systems in all cabs.
Installing alerts in places where the engineer is for half of a train’s runs would, you know, make common sense. What else is there to say really?
Finally, as Crain’s New York reports on the expected legal fallout. The MTA is bracing for lawsuits, but most of the damages will be covered by insurance. Here’s Andrew Hawkins’ take:
The Metro-North derailment that killed four passengers and injured 70 will likely cost the Metropolitan Transportation Authority tens of millions of dollars in wrongful death and injury claims—but insurance may cover all but $10 million.
After that $10 million in self-insurance is exhausted, the agency will have an additional $50 million it maintains through its captive insurer, First Mutual Transportation Assurance Co., said Laureen Coyne, director of risk and insurance management for the MTA. In addition, the MTA maintains $350 million in liability insurance through multiple carriers in the commercial markets.
In total, the agency is covered for up to $410 million in liabilities and says it stands ready to deal with any and all claims, which are likely to materialize in the months ahead as the nature of the injuries and causes of the accident become clearer.
The MTA could not comment on whether the crash and subsequent payouts would cause its premiums to increase, but it seems for now, that the budget contingencies and insurance plans will keep costs in line with what the agency can afford to pay. The wheels have already been put in motion for the first of many suits to come.