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Blumenthal Slams Metro-North Over Bad Track Conditions Before Derailment

A section of the track in Rye that may have led to a train derailment.
A section of the track in Rye that may have led to a train derailment. Photo Credit: National Transportation Safety Board

After the National Transportation Safety Board confirmed that Metro-North knew of dangerous track conditions before a train derailed in May near Rye, N.Y., U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) issued a renewed call for railroad safety.

Blumenthal sent a letter Monday to newly appointed Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph J. Lhota about the derailment on the New Haven Line and said the "‘buck stops with you’ on safety leadership.

“We need robust leadership to ensure that this derailment is not an indication that Metro-North is regressing to the dysfunction and disarray that once gripped the railroad,” Blumenthal said. “Metro-North knew about a dangerous condition on a track, but let a train full of passengers go over it anyway, apparently at a high rate of speed. We should be thankful the lack of proper management did not lead to more fatal, catastrophic consequences.”

Hot weather caused a rail “heat kink” that contributed to the derailment of the Metro-North train in Rye, the NTSB said.

The railroad was aware of the warp in the track and had advised train operators to lower speeds in the area to 10 mph. But the train was traveling around 50 mph when it derailed, Blumenthal said.

Related story: NTSB: Metro-North Knew Of Bend In Track Before Derailment On New Haven Line

The train had originated from Stamford and was headed for Grand Central Terminal, derailed shortly before 5 p.m. May 18, leaving 14 passengers, a train engineer and conductor with minor injuries.

At 1:20 p.m. that day, a Metro-North engineer reported a possible track condition on Track 3. Two track inspectors in a hi-rail vehicle conducted an inspection and found that the track was misaligned, the NTSB said.

Before 3 p.m., an engineer reported “a real nasty kink in the rail,” and a 30 mph speed restriction was put in place.

The NTSB said that shortly before 3:30 p.m., another engineer reported on the radio, “Yeah, the kink is pretty bad. I went over it doing 15 (mph) and I could still feel it pretty significantly,” prompting the rail traffic controller to reduce the speed restriction to 15 mph. The speed restriction would later be reduced to 10 mph.

At 4:30 p.m., as the supervisor was preparing to leave the area, he reported to the rail traffic controller that the alignment had not worsened and left the area. A half-hour later, the train derailed.

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