National rail safety plan announced

Metro-North train (File)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Problems on Metro North have put a spotlight on safety on the rails. Lawmakers are demanding big changes when it comes to keeping passengers safe when they step on board a train, not just in Connecticut but across the country.

“In total, there have been five deaths and 129 people injured in just the last year alone on Metro North,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, said Tuesday.

It started with the derailment and crash in Bridgeport in May, 2013, and ended with the deadly derailment in the Bronx December 1. Metro North is making changes and three of Connecticut’s U.S. Representatives want nationwide changes.

First responders view the derailment of a Metro North passenger train in the Bronx borough of New York Dec. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
First responders view the derailment of a Metro North passenger train in the Bronx borough of New York Dec. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

The Rail Safety Enforcement Act has five parts. One is to put alerters on all trains.

“The alerter is an automatic failsafe device that sounds an alarm when a train engineer seems idle while the train is in motion,” explained DeLauro.

The crash in the Bronx may have been caused by an engineer who fell asleep. The act would also mandate predictable schedules and force railroads to create plans to reduce fatigue. Railroads would also have to get positive train control systems to make sure two trains never end up on the same track.

The good news for Metro North riders is that, according to DOT Commissioner James Redeker, the New Haven Line is ahead of the curve on all of this safety technology, largely because of the big investment the state made in the new M-8 rail cars.

“The New Haven Line, this end of the New Haven Line, will be first with positive train control and that’s part of our vision for safety on the rail system,” Redeker said.

Finally, the act would require shunts, keeping trains off the tracks when employees are working. A worker was killed by a train in West Haven last May. The congressmembers say this should all be law already.

“In part this is a failure of political will,” Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, said. “We are seeing what happens when things slip through the cracks.”

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