The Metro North train is the second most used rail system in the country. A report was just released after a detailed, and extensive investigation, was done on the rail system over the last 60 days and the results are startling. The report highlights a myriad of violations and sites that the rail system focused more on getting trains in on time than following safety protocols to get those trains to their destination. This is nothing new for the rail system either. Over the last 10 years, Metro North inspectors have consistently noted violations and the report shows that they found over 7,100 different defects in the rail system over that span.
A spokesperson for the rail system spoke out about these allegations, saying that every time something was found, they would fix it immediately. She says it is the inspector’s job to find the defects, and it is the rail system’s job to fix them. But passengers are not happy about it. Many have already said they prefer not to take the train because it is too expensive and not reliable, and after the new results were released, many more may opt to drive to their destination, rather than take the train. A spokesperson for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) said that despite all the violations, the rail system is still safe to ride and they would never let them run if it was not; the FRA is responsible for the inspections that are done.
Last year two trains collided on the tracks between Fairfield and Bridgeport, and less than a month later an employee was struck by a train when he was working close to the tracks. After those incidents the Federal Railroad Administration increased its inspections to deal with the issues, launching a full-scale investigation. Last year another train derailed on the Hudson Line after it was going three times as fast as it should have around a bend and the conductor may have not been paying attention; lives were lost. Of the over 7,100 defects found in the Metro North rail system, inspectors noted everything from track defects, passenger safety, operation practices and even drug and alcohol policies.
Last year, the inspectors found that the bars that hold the train’s wheels to the tracks were broken, as well as loose, or sometimes even missing, rail braces were discovered. They found these dangerous violations in heavy trafficked stations like Norwalk, Bridgeport, New Haven and even Stamford. There were instances of passenger safety equipment not being in the right locations. There was a conductor that should have had his certification revoked, but the rail system failed to proceed with it, even though it was a federal law. Regularly scheduled track inspections by Metro North were missed, a train was found with the ignition keys left inside and no crew members around, and over the last 10 years, inspectors averaged almost two defects for every inspection; they averaged 301 inspections per year and 595 defects.
The results are startling, especially for a rail system that is so widely used. The rail system representatives acknowledged that every system has problems, and they are no different. But it seems to be getting worse. In 2013 inspectors found and filed 37 reports from January to April, by October that raised to 73 reports and by the end of December, the inspectors had filed 89 reports, finding 1,001 violations in the system, on only 500 individual inspections; that is 14 percent of all defects in the last 10 years. As the FRA said, if the train system was not deemed safe, then they would not let it run, so commuters should not abandon the train system. All defects are dealt with immediately and the system should be considered safe to ride. Still, it is shocking to see that over 7,100 defects were found in the Metro North rail system over the last 10 years, and a full investigation by inspectors only took place after there were two high-profile incidents on the tracks.
Opinion by Chris Dragicevich
Wall Street Journal