HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)- Senator Richard Blumenthal is responding to a report that says Metro-North knew about dangerous conditions on the track before a serious derailment near Rye, New York in May that left several passengers injured. That preliminary report was released by the National Transportation Safety Board.
According to the report the warm weather caused a “heat kink” in the rail, which reportedly contributed to the derailment. The report says the railroad knew about the warp in the tracks and told train operators to reduce speeds in that area, but it was actually traveling 50 miles per hour when it derailed.
Democratic Senator, Richard Blumenthal says Positive Train Control technology would have automatically slowed the train and prevented the accident. Blumenthal has been repeatedly calling for that technology.
Here is a copy of the letter Blumenthal send to Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph J. Lhota:
July 3, 2017
Mr. Joseph J. Lhota
New York, New York 10004
Dear Mr. Lhota:
I write to commend you for your willingness to step forward and lead the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and to seek your commitment that safety at Metro-North Railroad will be made a foremost priority. There are many challenges facing MTA and the vast network it oversees. A key part of that network is Metro-North Railroad, which saw a recent derailment on the New Haven Line that should worry us all. We need robust leadership to ensure that this derailment is not an indication that Metro-North is regressing to the dysfunction and disarray that once gripped the railroad.
In May, a train in Rye, New York just outside Connecticut jumped off the tracks, derailing and causing over a dozen injuries. Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary assessment of the incident, confirming many initial reports in the days after the derailment: Metro-North knew about a dangerous condition on a track, but let a train full of passengers go over it anyway, apparently at a high rate of speed. We should be thankful the lack of proper management did not lead to more fatal, catastrophic consequences.
I realize this incident predates your arrival, however, it is imperative you use your new office to exert leadership that ensures incidents like this are never allowed to happen. MTA oversees Metro-North and MTA representatives were quoted in press reports last week blaming the train’s engineer. More facts will come out as NTSB completes its investigation, but ultimately, in ensuring safety the buck stops with you. This point is even more salient as Metro-North will see its president retire next month, creating a vacuum within the railroad’s management that makes your leadership even more important. We learned from a spate of disastrous incidents at Metro-North in 2013 and 2014 that it is the management at the top that instills a culture of safety. This must be at the top of your list of action items. And any culture of safety must include a commitment to implementation of Positive Train Control – which can prevent human error from causing crashes and collisions – by the Congressionally-mandated deadline of December 2018. Your familiarity with MTA from your past service should help expedite this process.
I appreciate your commitment to MTA and Metro-North, which tens of thousands of my constituents depend upon daily. Please inform me how you will prioritize safety so incidents like the Rye derailment will not be allowed to recur. I look forward to hearing from you.
United States Senator