Sen. Boucher: Scrutinizes Metro North’s Track Record

December 18, 2013

“We owe it to the people of Connecticut to hold Metro North’s feet to the fire; vet other vendors.”

Hartford, CT – State Senator Toni Boucher (R-Wilton) ranking member of the Transportation Committee released the following statement today re: Commissioner for the State Department of Transportation testifies before the Transportation Committee on Metro North Safety and Infrastructure.

“What you are hearing is anger from the committee and from the commuters. For the first time, I am receiving feedback that commuters do not feel safe riding the rails. Metro North’s credibility has been damaged. I am convinced now more than ever that we owe it to the people of Connecticut to vet other vendors for our rail service. Connecticut’s contract with Metro North is renewable every five years – coming up again in 2015 – both sides can with-draw with an 18 month notice.

“Connecticut residents pay 65% of the costs associated with the functioning of Metro North rail lines. Yet, recently service has deteriorated and this year the inaction of Metro North to not invest in safety improvements has sadly turned into multiple tragedies. Last year, the state paid Metro North approximately $71.48 million to operate trains on our tracks and today we learn the vendor did not invest in a speed alerter (automatic breaking system) to slow down a train headed for disaster.

“The state’s 60 year contract with Metro North does not expire until 2030 and does not clearly define what costs are associated with repair, maintenance and upgrade of this line. I would like to know the answers to these questions. We have also learned from one of Metro North’s Chief Engineers that the company is behind in its five year maintenance schedule.

“The series of five incidents since May of 2013 are too serious to ignore. By vetting other vendors Connecticut DOT would have an opportunity to learn about the newest and best practices of the rail industry and allow Metro North to compete for our business.

“Intervention by federal authorities may be required to bring transparency to the proper and safe functioning of this vital rail line. Metro North has lost a great deal of credibility in running a transportation system that is essential to our region’s economic health.

“Going forward I hope the administration and the Department of Transportation will seriously consider looking to other rail lines for their service. Competition is in the best interest of our commuting public for transparency, cost effectiveness and more importantly safety.

“Additionally, until our contract with Metro North expires we should demand regular updates on efforts to correct safety issues, as well as evaluations going forward to identify any structural and management issues. Though much of the discussion at the briefing centered on technology I am concerned that management, oversight and human error are bigger issues for Metro North.

“These expectations are not too much to ask considering more than 100,000 people ride the rails every day and they deserve to arrive at their destination safely.”