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Blumenthal To Head Up Rail Safety Hearing In Wake Of Derailment, Death

Worker Was Killed On May 28 In West Haven
Trains following a collision on Metro-North Railroad's New Haven Line - May 17, 2013 (credit: Fairfield PD)

Trains following a collision on Metro-North Railroad’s New Haven Line – May 17, 2013 (credit: Fairfield PD)

HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) - Connecticut U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal will chair a Senate committee hearing on Wednesday and the issue will be rail safety.

It comes in the wake of the derailment and crash of two Metro-North Railroad trains on May 17 and the death of a track worker in West Haven on May 28, struck by a train going 70 miles per hour.

The fact that the National Transportation Safety Board has said that it will take a year and a half to issue a probable cause finding for the derailment and crash is outrageous, Blumenthal told WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau.

“They know what happened and, in fact, they’ve made a preliminary statement that the ballast and the track joints were found to have defects just two days before the actual collision. So, they’re well on their way to making these findings,” Blumenthal told Schneidau.

The hearing of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hear from NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman, Federal Railroad Administration administrator Joseph Szabo, and Connecticut Transportation Commissioner James Redeker, among others.

In the case of the worker killed, a Metro-North spokeswoman said a student traffic controller and his supervisor were suspended without pay.

Marjorie Anders said Tuesday the suspensions are pending the outcome of a NTSB investigation.

The NTSB, which is still investigating, urged the railroad on Monday to provide backup protection for track maintenance crews who now depend on train dispatchers.

The NTSB said 52-year-old foreman Robert Luden had requested the track section be taken out of service for maintenance. That was done, but the NTSB said it was placed back in service too soon by a student traffic controller who didn’t have the required approval.

Metro-North said it was upgrading its notification system so that the responsibilty for putting a track work area back into service lies directly with the foreman at the scene and is not done remotely by traffic controllers in New York.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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