Metro-North is implementing changes for NTSB after accidents

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MTA Metro-North Railroad has completed permanent changes to its signal system to ensure automatic speed enforcement at five critical curves and five moveable bridges in New York and Connecticut, the railroad announced yesterday.

With the completion of work at the Devon Bridge in Stratford, Conn., late last week, all signal modifications ordered by the Federal Railroad Administration in December have been completed well before the FRA’s Sept. 1 deadline, Metro-North officials said in a press release.

The FRA ordered the work after a December 2013 accident in which a Metro-North train derailed on a curve near the Bronx, N.Y., resulting in four passenger fatalities.

“The complete implementation of the requirements of the FRA’s Emergency Order 29, issued on Dec. 8, 2013, brings us another step closer to a safer railroad, which is our No. 1 goal,” said Metro-North President Joseph Giulietti.

Signal engineers first designed modifications to the circuitry at each location by calculating where and when speed limits should be reduced. Then, signal maintainers had to reconfigure wiring along the tracks that sends the signal to the train to control its speed. Extensive testing was performed to confirm the changes were working as designed, according to the agency.

The signal display observed by train engineers in their cabs now will automatically indicate reduced allowable speeds on the approaches to these 10 locations. If the engineer does not reduce the train’s speed accordingly, the train will automatically come to a stop.

Metro-North signal forces began work on changes to the Automatic Train Control system at Spuyten Duyvil just days after the fatal derailment and completed the modifications there on the same day the FRA order was issued.

Signal system modifications for the remaining four curves at Yonkers, White Plains, Bridgeport and Port Chester were all completed by Feb. 8, ahead of the FRA March 1, target.

Work then shifted to the five moveable bridges on the New Haven Line at Cos Cob, South Norwalk, Westport, Bridgeport and Milford in Connecticut. The “Peck” Bridge in Bridgeport was completed first on January 18, 2014 and the fifth and final bridge at Devon was completed March 20.

MTA Metro-North Railroad and MTA Long Island Rail Road plan to install monitoring equipment designed to detect defective or overheated wheels and loads of freight trains that operate on publicly owned track and convey that information in real time to the railroads’ control centers.

The train fault detector system will help improve safety, reduce wear and tear of the tracks, and identify faults before they cause problems, said Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Prendergast in a press release.

The system consists of three components: a wheel impact detector that recognizes flat spots and other wheel defects; a “hot box” detector that ensures all roller bearings around axles are operating properly and not overheating; and a tag reader that identifies individual freight cars.

The railroads are seeking a vendor to design, manufacture, deliver and integrate these components to provide real-time reporting to the railroads’ control centers.

Metro-North intends to install the system east of Green’s Farms Station on the New Haven Line and south of Scarborough on the Hudson Line. Freight trains enter the Hudson Line from the south at Highbridge Yard in the Bronx and from the north at Poughkeepsie. Freight trains enter the New Haven line from the south at New Rochelle and from the north at New Haven.

The LIRR system will be installed on the Main Line west of Bellerose Station. Freight trains, including those operated by New York and Atlantic Railroad and CSX Transportation, enter LIRR tracks at Long Island City and Fresh Pond in Queens and at Bay Ridge in Brooklyn. These installations are in addition to fault detection improvements on CSX property that CSX agreed to in August 2013 following a freight derailment at Spuyten Duyvil last summer, MTA officials said.

MTA Metro-North Railroad will install outward and inward-facing video and audio recorders on all of its and MTA Long Island Rail Road’s trains in response to a recommendation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

Prospective vendors will be asked to design, manufacture and deliver an onboard video recording system. The base order would cover the newest cars in the railroads’ fleets, Metro-North’s M-8s, both railroads’ M-7s and cab cars, as well as all locomotives. The order also includes 843 car cabs for Metro-North and 926 cars for LIRR, Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) officials said in a press release.

“We will be systematically implementing recommendations put forward by the NTSB and other regulators to ensure the best practices are adhered to throughout the MTA family,” said MTA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Prendergast.

The move to install the video and audio equipment is in reaction to recommendations issued by NTSB after a Metro-North train derailment in December that resulted in four fatalities.

Metro-North committed to install cameras on trains as part of the 100-day Action Plan issued after Joseph Giulietti became Metro-North’s new president in February. The cameras will aid in post-accident/incident investigations and deter behaviors that could affect safe train operations, MTA officials said.

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