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Federal Railroad Administration Issues Safety Advisory Following Metro-North Derailment

Regulators Stress Speed, Communication
Several people were killed and dozens injured when a Metro-North commuter train derailed  in the Bronx on Dec. 1, 2013, fire officials said. (credit: CBS 2)

Several people were killed and dozens injured when a Metro-North commuter train derailed in the Bronx on Dec. 1, 2013, fire officials said. (credit: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Railroads nationwide have lessons to learn about speed limits and the importance of communication between crew members after the deadly derailment of a Metro-North train earlier this month, federal regulators said Wednesday.

The Federal Railroad Administration issued an industry-wide safety advisory, telling railroads to immediately brief employees on the circumstances of the Dec. 1 accident in the Bronx.

Four people were killed and dozens were injured when the train jumped the tracks near the Spuyten Duyvil station. The train was traveling 82 mph into a 30-mph turn, federal investigators said.

The training should discuss “absolute speed limits, speed restrictions based on physical characteristics, temporary speed restrictions and any other restrictions commonly encountered,” the advisory said.

“The Metro-North crash illustrates how important it is for railroads to follow speed limits,” U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said.

Federal Railway Administrator Joseph Szabo said U.S. train accidents are down 43 percent over a decade, “but we must always do better.”

The directive also said railroads should perform operational tests on trains that are required to reduce speed by more than 20 mph. It suggested using black-box data and radar to verify compliance with speed limits.

The FRA also encouraged rail lines to reinforce the importance of communication between crew members, during both busy times and “extended periods of inactivity.”

Representatives of William Rockefeller, the engineer on the Metro-North train, have said he experienced a “daze” and nodded at the controls just before the wreck, possibly due to what’s sometimes called highway hypnosis. He has been suspended without pay during the National Transportation Safety Board investigation.

Last week, the FRA ordered Metro-North to identify places in its system with major speed changes, put an extra worker in the engineer’s cab on some routes and overhaul its signal system.

“The FRA is attempting to get ahead of this investigation and to prevent anything like this from happening again,” former NTSB Chairman Mark Ronsenker told WCBS 880′s Peter Haskell.

Metro-North, which operates trains in New York and Connecticut, said its inspections over the next several months would focus on compliance with speed limits.

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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.)