FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – With two derailments, a holiday fire and a three-week slowdown in October, 2013 was not a great year for Metro-North Railroad in Fairfield and Westchester counties.
Metro-North’s first sign of a bad year came in May, when a New Haven Line train derailed and collided with a second train heading in the opposite direction along the Fairfield-Bridgeport border. There were no fatalities, but more than 60 people were injured.
Cleanup work and a National Transportation Safety Board investigation kept sections of the New Haven Line closed for days after the derailment, causing commuters problems throughout Fairfield County. Investigators later found that the accident may have been caused by a damaged rail joint on the track.
On July 4, holiday train riders faced another series of delays, this time due to a fire on a Metro-North train in the Bronx, N.Y. No major injuries were reported in the incident, but train service was delayed for several hours after the blaze.
In late September, commuters once again had to deal with long-term delays on the New Haven Line. An electrical feeder line experienced heavy damage near Mount Vernon, N.Y., on Sept. 25. The resulting repairs disrupted New Haven Line service for 12 days, prompting Gov. Dannel Malloy and other leaders to push for legal action against Con Edison, which was doing repair work in the area when the damage occurred.
Another train derailed along the Hudson Line in the Bronx on Dec. 1, this time causing four deaths and 63 injuries. Officials believe this derailment was caused by excessive speed as the train moved through a curve.
Metro-North has announced that it will make safety improvements across all of its rail lines, including new signals at “critical curves” and increased communication between engineers and conductors. But the company will also go ahead with its planned fare increase starting Jan. 1.
In mid-December the Federal Rail Administration launched “Operation Deep Dive,” an investigation into Metro-North’s safety record and compliance with federal regulations. The investigation will look at everything from the railroad’s equipment and infrastructure to its policies on employee workloads and certifications.
“Safety is our top priority, and this in-depth investigation will help ensure that Metro-North is doing everything possible to improve its safety record,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a press release. “Together with our other recent efforts, Operation Deep Dive will give travelers the peace of mind they deserve when traveling throughout the railroad’s region.”