A Metro-North passenger train lays on its side Dec. 1 after derailing on a curved section of track in the Bronx borough of New York. / Mark Lennihan, AP
The nation's second-largest commuter railroad, Metro-North, let passenger safety lapse, a federal review released Friday says.
The eview began in December after a Metro-North train derailed in the Bronx, N.Y., killing four passengers and injuring 77 passengers and eight employees.
The Federal Railroad Administration says a combination of Metro-North's "strong emphasis on on-time performance" and increased train activity "appears to have led managers and supervisors to allow inspections, maintenance and employee training to lapse."
Metro-North trains, which operate in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, carried 81 million passengers last year, according to FRA data.
The federal agency pointed to "a deficient safety culture that has manifested itself in increased risk and reduced safety."
Besides the accident in the Bronx on Dec. 1, there were three "high-profile" accidents last year involving Metro-North or its tracks, , the FRA says:
ā?¢On May 17, an eastbound train traveling 74 mph derailed in Bridgeport, Conn., and stopped on an adjacent track. About 20 seconds later, a westbound train collided with the derailed train. Metro-North spokesman Aaron Donovan says 120 passengers and 10 employees were injured.
ā?¢Eleven days later, the FRA says, a Metro-North train traveling 70 mph in West Haven, Conn., struck and killed a Metro-North employee performing railroad maintenance.
ā?¢On July 18, a CSX Transportation freight train derailed while traveling on Metro-North's track. No one was injured, but property damage was significant, the FRA says.
The federal agency directs Metro-North's senior leadership to immediately "prioritize safety above all else." That priority must be immediately implemented and communicated to employees, the FRA says.
The FRA ordered Metro-North to submit within 60 days a plan to improve its safety department's "mission and effectiveness."
The staff of the safety department must conduct safety meetings "at all levels of the organization" and provide "appropriate in-person monitoring of field activities and personnel," the FRA says.
Metro-North must submit within 60 days a plan to improve its training program, and the railroad was ordered to "take corrective action to ensure that accurate records are created, maintained and readily accessible" to employees.
Metro-North President Joseph Giulietti says the FRA's review is "important," and the agency has recommended "significant improvements."
"Metro-North is taking aggressive actions to affirm that safety is the most important factor in railroad operations," Giulietti says, "and we welcome the FRA's continued involvement to help Metro-North establish a consistent safety-first culture throughout the railroad."
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