President Giulietti Working to Put Metro-North Back on Track

June 1, 2015

As the 2015 legislative session steams forward, major transportation initiatives are about to be voted on, including proposals that concern mass transit.

It should be noted that Connecticut’s rail system is the most heavily used and congested in the nation, with 39 million rail trips per year. Its current level of ridership is the highest in its history.

I recently had the opportunity to personally meet with Metro North President Joseph Giulietti for a frank conversation about Connecticut’s main and branch lines. Mr. Giulietti also updated the Transportation Committee on what has been accomplished in the four months since he took charge of a rail system besieged by infrastructure, safety, personnel, management and oversight deficiencies.

He began his presentation by saying, “Metro North is committed to the goal of rebuilding the railroad’s organization culture and its physical plant so that safety is the foundation of everything we do. Our success is directly limited to the safety of all of our employees,” Giulietti told us. “An injury free workforce is a productive workforce; a safe work environment is a productive work environment. One does not come at the expense of the other. Safety must always remain “Priority One” in everything Metro-North does if we are to continue to move forward and this ultimately benefits our customers.”

Giulietti was impressive. His deep knowledge of the mass transit industry was evident, and gave those of us with deep concerns renewed confidence. He is mindful of the damaged reputation of his railroad among Connecticut’s commuters. These commuters have experienced unprecedented derailments, delays and dysfunctional infrastructure over the last few years.

He shared some of the initiatives he has been working on since he assumed his new position:

  • A 100 day plan that includes 32 initiatives
  • Confidential close call reporting
  • Quarterly safety stand down meetings for all employees
  • Created an office of system safety focusing on operating practices and procedures
  • Created a training department
  • Instituted daily operational testing
  • Monthly and Quarterly review of the results of department changes
  • Semi-annual reviews by Federal Railroad Administration
  • New hire recertification training
  • A 3rd party comprehensive assessment of infrastructure and maintenance producers
  • (146 items were evaluated and or implemented)
  • Added a VP of Engineering to the Maintenance of Way Department
  • Realigned staffing of controllers so employees are not working on rest days
  • A pilot program to identify safety-critical employees with sleep apnea

He also shared completed safety measures:

  • Automatic speed control in 10 areas including curves and moveable bridges along the New Haven line
  • Installed permanent speed signs at key locations
  • Enhanced protection for employees working along tracks
  • Installed engineer alerter systems on trains that did not have them

The infrastructure upgrades accomplished in 2014 include:

  • Replacement of 42,500 cross ties on all three lines
  • Resurfacing 83 miles of track across all lines
  • The installation of two dozen new switches that allow trains to move from one track to another – improving operational flexibility
  • The renewal of three highway grade crossings
  • Replacement of 7000 feet of welded rail on half a dozen curves on Hudson Line and 4,700 feet of rail on three curves on the New Haven Line
  • Steel repairs to under-grade bridges and timber bridge decks
  • Installation of new timber ties, welded rail and new miter rails and presence detectors at the Walk Bridge in Norwalk, the Devon Bridge in Milford and at a lift bridge in New York City.

Senator Boucher is the Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee assembly’s Transportation Committee