While returning home from a trip to the Peekskill Brewery this past Sunday, we found a pair of seats in the front car of our Hudson Line train. As the express pulled out of Peekskill en route to its next stop at 125th St., I noticed two train employees in the front cab. This change in staffing came about as a direct result of the fatal crash in December, and the ongoing NTSB investigation.
Since the accident and following a year of bad publicity and poor operations, Metro-North has lost one president. Much as NJ Transit Executive Director is stepping down in a few weeks, former Metro-North President Howard Permut stepped down two weeks ago. His time was up, and Joseph Giulietti’s is beginning. Needless to say, there are likely many more changes on tap for Metro-North.
On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board issued another set of recommendations to Metro-North. Their investigation is far from complete, and as the Daily News has repeatedly noticed, they haven’t focused much on the train operator who may or may not have dozed off while driving. But for now, the NTSB wants Metro-North to install permanent speed limit signs along its route and place crash-resistant cameras inside and outside their train cabs to improve oversight and, in case of need, investigations.
In a letter to Giulietti, Deborah Hersman, chair of the NTSB, explained the board’s request:
Information developed thus far in our investigation of the December 1, 2013, derailment indicates that, while Metro-North posted signs for temporary speed restrictions, it did not use approach permanent speed restriction signs for permanent speed restrictions, such as the 30 mph speed restriction at the derailment location. As a result of the accident, Metro-North installed approach permanent speed restriction signs to aid operating crews at the derailment location, as well as in three other locations where the permanent speed restriction is greater than 20 mph less than the prevailing speed. The NTSB believes that Metro-North should take additional steps by implementing a more systematic approach and install such signs at all locations where permanent speed restrictions are in place. Although posting of these signs may not have prevented the December 1, 2013, accident, in the process of investigating that accident and the others mentioned above, the NTSB noted this issue and felt it needed the attention of Metro-North. It is crucial that locomotive engineers and conductors know the location of speed restrictions that are identified by milepost in the timetable or in operating bulletins. This will alert train operating crews that speed restrictions are forthcoming and will comply with industry best practices.
Additionally, the NTSB issued a call for inward and outward facing cameras. “The images and audio captured by recorders can be invaluable to our investigators,” Hersman said. “Understanding what is happening inside the cab just prior to a crash can provide crucial information about how to prevent future accidents.”
The release from the NTSB seemingly came out of nowhere as it the investigation, as I mentioned, is still ongoing, but Hersman was due to meet with Giulietti yesterday. The NTSB seems to think it can attract attention to some operating, especially in light of Metro-North’s temporary measures and signage.
As New York Senator Chuck Schumer voiced his support for the NTSB’s recommendations, the MTA vowed to continue to work with the NTSB to improve rail safety. “We have received the NTSB’s recommendations and we are studying them closely,” agency spokesman Adam Lisberg said to the Daily News. “Metro-North is working with the NTSB to address questions about implementation of the report’s recommendations.”