Thursday, December 12, 2013

FRA diving deeper into Metro-North

Written by  William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
The Federal Railroad Administration will launch a 60-day comprehensive safety assessment of MTA Metro-North Railroad in response to the December 1st crash that killed four and injured 63. Operation Deep Dive, beginning Dec. 16, 2013, “will exhaustively review Metro-North’s compliance with federal regulations, its procedures and practices, and its safety culture,” FRA said.

On Dec. 16, U.S. Department of Transportation technical and human factors experts will begin a comprehensive review and assessment of safety-critical procedures and processes at Metro-North. The rail safety team will look at:

• Track, signal, and rolling stock maintenance, inspection, and repair practices.

• Protection for employees working on rail infrastructure, locomotives, and railcars.

• Communication between mechanical and transportation departments at maintenance facilities.

• Operation control center procedures and rail traffic controller training.

• Compliance with Federal Hours of Service regulations, including fatigue management programs.

• Evaluating results of operational data to measure efficiency of employees’ execution and comprehension of all applicable federal regulations.

• Locomotive engineer oversight.

• Engineer and conductor certification.

• Operating crew medical requirements.

After Operation Deep Dive is complete, FRA will issue a report with findings and recommendations. FRA will further evaluate Metro-North’s compliance with Emergency Order 29, its effectiveness in fulfilling the recommendations in the an industry-wide Safety Advisory issued December 11, and then consider if additional actions are necessary to strengthen safety at Metro-North. The Safety Advisory, FRA said, will help “ensure that all railroads adhere to federal regulations and applicable railroad rules regarding maximum authorized train speed limits.

“Encouraging a safety stand-down with employees and issuing an Emergency Order and Safety Advisory after the recent Metro-North accident were all necessary first steps to immediately secure and improve safety, and we commend Governor Cuomo and MTA in taking those steps,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. “Operation Deep Dive allows FRA to further identify sources of risk and drive continuous safety improvement. This approach will help restore public confidence in Metro-North and is evidence of FRA’s safety program that has helped reduce train accidents nationwide by 43% over the past decade.”

For a description of FRA’s increased oversight and enforcement of Metro-North’s rail lines since May 2013, see the agency’s Safety Action Plan.