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Report: Metro-North Railroad President To Leave Post

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Howard Permut, President of the MTA Metro-North Railroad.  (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

Howard Permut, President of the MTA Metro-North Railroad. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A published report said Monday night that the president of the Metro-North Railroad has decided to step down.

Multiple sources told the New York Times that Metro-North President Howard R. Permut is leaving his post.

He announced his retirement effective at the end of the month to staff members late Monday afternoon, and was expected to be replaced by South Florida Regional Transportation Authority Joseph Guiletti, the newspaper reported.

“As a former employee of Metro-North, I think he understands the corporate culture, the challenges that he’s going to face with an aging infrastructure,” commuter advocate Jim Cameron told WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau. “What I would hope that Mr. Guiletti brings to the office of president of Metro-North is candor and transparency and honesty and communication with all the stakeholders.”

Reached by CBS 2, Metro-North spokesman Aaron Donovan said he could not confirm the report.

The report follows a year plagued by deadly accidents and other problems won the Metro-North Railroad.

Most infamously in December, four people were killed and more than 60 injured when a Metro-North train derailed in the Bronx.

A union official said William Rockefeller, the engineer at the controls of the Metro-North train that derailed on Dec. 1, “nodded off” at the controls and “zoned out” before the accident. Rockefeller’s lawyer said the engineer went into a “daze,” before going into a curve at 82 mph where the speed limit was 30 mph.

Following the accident, Metro-North signal crews installed new safety protections at the Spuyten Duyvil curve where the accident happened. Meanwhile, Rockefeller was suspended without pay.

That accident followed numerous other mishaps earlier in 2013.

• On Sept. 25, a feeder cable in Mount Vernon failed, knocking out power for 12 days to Metro-North’s New Haven line, which carries 132,000 commuters daily. Metro-North estimated that the outage cost between $8 million and $12 million.

On July 18, 10 freight train cars hauling garbage derailed near the same Spuyten Duyvil station close to which the Sunday accident happened. Service was suspended.

• On May 28, track foreman Robert Luden was struck and killed by a passenger train in West Haven, Conn. The National Transportation Safety Board says he had requested a track section be taken out of service for maintenance, and the section was placed back in service too soon by a student traffic controller who didn’t have the required approval.

On May 17, an eastbound train derailed in Bridgeport, Conn., and was struck by a westbound train. The accident injured 73 passengers, two engineers and a conductor.

This month, Metro-North’s chief engineer, Robert Puciloski, told members of the National Transportation Safety Board investigating the May derailment and Luden’s death that the railroad is “behind in several areas,” including a five-year schedule of cyclical maintenance that had not been conducted in the area of the Bridgeport derailment since 2005.

The NTSB issued an urgent recommendation to Metro-North that it use “redundant protection” such as a procedure known as “shunting” in which crews attach a device to the rail in a work zone alerting the dispatcher to inform approaching trains to stop.

The September disruption resulted in significant increases in highway traffic in Connecticut along the already busy Interstate 95 and Merritt Parkway, and also cost Connecticut’s economy $62 million. It prompted criticism by officials of Con Edison, after neither the utility nor Metro-North was willing to take the blame.

Permut was a member of the original Metro-North team in 1983, when the railroad was brought under the control of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Times reported. He became president in 2008.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 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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