Priorities must change at Metro North

August 29, 2014

Hartford, CT – State Senator Toni Boucher (R-Wilton) released the following statement today re: Blue Ribbon Panel Report on Metro-North Railroad’s safety and maintenance practices.

“The findings of this panel sadly, are not surprising. Metro-North Railroad has been sacrificing safety for on-time performance for years. We know because commuters have been telling us and tragic accidents like the December 2013 derailment that killed four riders and deaths of workers on the track have occurred because of a system wide failure to correct a destructive culture. It is clear on-time performance was put higher on a priority list than critical safety inspections and maintenance.

“The report confirms what the Federal Railroad Administration found earlier this year: there are numerous defects like broken or cracked joint bars; loose or missing adjustable rail braces and examples of two or less bolts in a joint bar that demand immediate attention. These safety and maintenance issues are going to have to be repaired and there will have to be costly upgrades that have been deferred. Connecticut cannot continue to raid its special transportation fund to pay other bills. Both parties have been guilty of this and it has got to stop.

“After some urging from legislators on the Transportation Committee, previous leaders at Metro North stepped down. This year new leadership was brought in. I was encouraged by the Panel’s support of Metro-North recent efforts including: automation of its process for assessing track conditions and use of the data when it is planning maintenance schedules, as well as supporting the creation of a Chief Safety Officer and creation of a Safety Committee of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board.

“All of these enhancements are critical but more work still has to be done. Until commuters can say they feel safe and ride the trains with confidence – scrutiny of how Metro North conducts itself will remain a high priority at the Capitol.”

The Blue Ribbon Panel has asked for corrective action plans from Metro North and plans another evaluation on the effectiveness of those plans in a year.

The link to the full 50 page report can be found here…

Senator Boucher is Ranking Member of the Transportation Committee.