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Feds Issue Emergency Order To Metro-North Railroad Following ‘Serious Overspeed Event’

FRA Mandates More Operators On Vulnerable Train Lines

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Deadly Derailment

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – The Federal Rail Administration issued an emergency order to Metro-North Railroad Friday in response to the fatal train derailment in the Bronx.

As CBS 2′s Tony Aiello reported Friday evening, the government has come down hard on the transit agency following Sunday’s incident.

The FRA ordered the railroad to take “specific, immediate steps to ensure its train crews do not exceed speed limitations.”

The order requires Metro-North to modify its signal system to ensure speed limits are followed. It also mandates extra operators on lines where major speed restrictions are in place until the signal system can be updated.

The order also requires the extra operator to be on hand until the railroad is able to install an automatic system that will slow the trains as they approach zones where the speed limit drops by at least 20 mph, Aiello reported.

The agency called the fatal crash a “serious overspeed event” that is cause for concern, and added it has “significant concerns with regard to the railroad’s compliance with federal railroad safety regulations.”

CUNY professor and transportation safety expert Robert Paaswell reacted to the order.

“It’s a tough letter. The head of any organization wouldn’t like somebody who’s supervising them saying ‘we think you can do the job a little better,’” he said.

“Safety is our highest priority, and we must do everything we can to learn from this tragic crash and help prevent future derailments,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “While we assist the National Transportation Safety Board in carrying out its investigation, this emergency order will help ensure that other Metro-North trains travel at appropriate, safe speeds.”

The derailment near the Spuyten Duyvil station killed four people and injured more than 60 others.

Funerals were held this week for three of the victims; the fourth will be laid to rest on Saturday.

The order is a mandatory directive and failure to adhere to it would result in enforcement actions against Metro-North or individuals who violate it, the FRA said.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees Metro-North, said it would comply with the order.

WEB EXTRA: Read MTA Chairman’s Response To FRA Orders (pdf)

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told WCBS 880′s Marla Diamond that an overhaul of the railroad is overdue.

“The railroad really has to do some soul searching and the action plan to be submitted by the end of the year is one step, very clearly, in the right direction,” Blumenthal said.

Some Metro-North passengers said the new order makes them feel safer riding the rails.

“Just to have a second pair of eyes can’t really hurt,” one woman told Aiello.

“Anything they can do to prevent what happened in the future would be terrific,” said another commuter.

Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent a letter to MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast, urging the chairman to expedite the implementation of positive train control at vulnerable locations across the Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road systems.

The governor also said that reports have “now made clear that the actions of engineer William Rockefeller were the initiating cause of this tragic accident. The train’s speed, which Mr. Rockefeller controlled, was over 50 mph above the maximum allowed speed at the time of derailment.”

Rockefeller remains suspended without pay while the investigation continues.

Cuomo also called on Prendergast to confer with experts to identify what actions can be taken before a positive train control  system is installed.

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(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.)