March 14, 2014

Metro-North prioritized on-time performance over safety, review says

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced its findings and recommendations from an intensive 60-day comprehensive safety assessment of Metro-North Commuter Railroad.

The assessment, known as Operation Deep Dive, found that Metro-North’s management emphasizes on-time performance to the detriment of safe operations and adequate maintenance of its infrastructure, resulting in a deficient safety culture, increased risk and reduced safety on the Metro-North system.

The report requires Metro-North to submit plans to FRA within 60 days on how it will improve the effectiveness of its Safety Department and training programs. 

The report instructs Metro-North to take the following actions to mitigate risk and to begin a turnaround of the railroad’s safety culture:

  • Effective immediately, Metro-North’s senior leadership must put safety front and center and communicate and implement that priority throughout its organization.
  • Within 60 days, Metro-North shall submit to FRA a plan to improve its Safety Department’s mission and effectiveness, including providing appropriate in-person monitoring of field activities and personnel.
  • Within 60 days, Metro-North shall submit to FRA a plan to improve its employee training, ensuring that it develops and implements an effective training program for all operating departments.

The assessment directs Metro-North to address 25 specific recommendations covering eight safety critical concerns identified by FRA. These include:

  • Track safety standards
  • Railroad operating rules
  • Certification requirements for locomotive engineers and conductors
  • Safety training for roadway workers and employees who maintain rolling stock
  • Train control systems
  • Operations Control Center
  • Fatigue management for maintenance-of-way employees  

FRA announced Operation Deep Dive on Dec. 16, 2013 following a train crash near Spuyten Duyvil Station that killed four people and injured nearly 70 others. The tragic accident is one of four notable accidents that occurred on the railroad in 2013.  

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