Tag Archives: National Transportation Safety Board

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.

MTA Metro-North Railroad In The News

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First of all a big five-alarm fire and building collapse on Park Avenue alongside Metro-North tracks to Grand Central Terminal.

Then, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is launching an investigation into the death of an MTA Metro-North Railroad track worker, who was struck and killed by a Hudson Line train earlier this week. 

The incident is the latest in a series of accidents that have occurred at Metro-North during the past year, including the December derailment in the Bronx that resulted in four fatalities. In yesterday’s incident, the Metro-North worker was struck by the train while he was working on track near Park Avenue and East 106th Street, New York City news media reported yesterday. 

The NTSB announced on its Twitter site that it was sending a team of three investigators to New York City to investigate the fatality.

Metro-North is undergoing government reviews and investigations for accidents that have occurred since May 2013, including a Metro-North foreman’s death while working on track, a derailment in Bridgeport, Conn., and the Bronx accident.
 
Yesterday’s incident occurred less than a month after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced new steps to ensure passenger and worker safety. Last week, Metro-North’s new president, Joe Giulietti, announced a 100-day action plan that requires the railroad to “rebuild a culture of safety.”

 

Spuyten Duyvil Metro-North Railroad Accident: “Are We There Yet?”

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Been a week since this trategy and a lot has happened.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation continues but shouldn’t be too long before publishing. It is unlike the Canada process (that recent oil train iwreck n Québec) which usually takes a year.

U.S. transportation officials ordered the Metro-North Railroad on Friday to quickly overhaul its signal system and temporarily put an extra worker in the driver’s cab on some routes that have major speed changes, including the one where a speeding commuter train derailed this week, killing four people

The emergency order by the Federal Railroad Administration was a reaction to Sunday’s wreck in the Bronx, where a train flew off the tracks after hitting a curve at 82 mph, nearly three times the 30 mph speed limit. The lone train operator told investigators he nodded at the controls and didn’t apply the brakes until it was too late.

The order gives the railroad until Dec. 31 to provide the Federal Railroad Administration with a plan and target dates for modifying the existing signal system so that trains will automatically slow down in places where the speed limit drops by more than 20 mph.

Until those signal changes are made, the order will require the rail line to put at least two qualified workers in the operator’s cab on sections of track where speeds vary.

On some routes, this may mean that a conductor can head to the cab and accompany the engineer for a few minutes when the train is approaching a slower zone. On others, there will have to be an extra crew member who makes the whole trip because the operator’s cab is not accessible from other train cars.

The extra workers will be required until the railroad upgrades its existing signal and automatic control systems in a way that will deliver “adequate advance warning” of speed restrictions, federal officials said.

On Wednesday, three days after the Manhattan-bound Hudson line train tumbled off the rails in the Bronx, killing four people and injuring more than 70, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said that an alerter system had been installed in the locomotive pushing the train, but not in the front cab, where the engineer was positioned, properly, at the time of the crash.

The train was in a “push-pull” configuration, common on Metro-North. In such arrangements, trains are pushed by a locomotive in one direction and pulled in the other.

The authority said a “push-pull” model kept the noise and exhaust of a locomotive as far as possible from the halls of Grand Central Terminal, though diesel trains typically switch to an electric mode as they approach. There is also generally no way for trains to turn around there, the authority said.

The alerter system sounds an alarm after 25 seconds of inactivity, and applies the brakes automatically if an engineer does not respond within 15 seconds.

It is not clear how long before the crash Mr. Rockefeller became inattentive, or whether the alerter system could have prevented the derailment or reduced its severity. It appears likely, though, that if Mr. Rockefeller had experienced a similar episode for an extended period on a northbound trip — when he would have been stationed in the locomotive — the siren might have sounded. In effect, trains configured and equipped like the one in the derailment employ the “alerter” system on only half of their runs.

While much of the safety discussion since the crash has focused on an expensive control system that remains years away from reality for the transportation authority, rail experts have said that a number of lower-cost remedies could have been put in place — and should be in the future — both inside the train and across the system governing it.

The derailment was the deadliest in New York City in more than two decades, prompting a federal investigation and leading local authorities and prosecutors to collect evidence for a possible criminal investigation into the actions of Mr. Rockefeller, who has been suspended without pay.

One potential safety improvement would be ensuring that the alerter systems were installed in every cab. The authority had said that new cars would include the systems in all cabs.

Other improvements could involve a modification of the existing signaling system in which coded electrical pulses sent through the rails are picked up by the trains and displayed as signals in the engineer’s cab.

The signals tell the engineer how fast the train can go, and if they are ignored, the system warns the engineer and if necessary can “dump” the air from the brakes, stopping the train.

In the meantime, things are returning to normal. Passenger service is back to regular strength and freight has resumed. Usually, a south-bound freight brings fruits, vegetables and stuff like that into New York. Finally got to run Thursday. It was 125 cars long. The longest freight train into New York City in recorded history. About 8 locomotives.