FAIRFIELD, Conn. – A rail joint with inadequate support may have been the cause of last month’s Metro-North derailment and collision that sent 76 New Haven Line commuters to the hospital and amounted to around $18 million in damage, preliminary reports from the National Transportation Safety Board show.
A track inspection on May 15 found “an insulated rail joint with inadequate supporting ballast and indications of vertical movement of the track system” where the derailment likely took place on May 17 near the Fairfield-Bridgeport border, according to an early federal report of the investigation. Sections of the rail in the area of the derailment were sent to the NTSB lab in Washington, DC for further examination.
The train that derailed was traveling eastbound, having departed from Grand Central Terminal at 6:01 p.m., at about 70 mph when it derailed, preliminary NTSB reports said. It was struck by a westbound train whose engineer had applied the emergency brakes and had slowed from around 70 mph to 23 mph, the early reports said.
Both trains were carrying approximately 250 passengers each at the time of the accident. Seventy-three passengers, two train engineers and one conductor were transported to area hospitals as a result of the collision, the NTSB said.
Following the accident, train service was halted between South Norwalk to New Haven for several days.
There are four main tracks in the vicinity of where the accident took place. The maximum speed allowed on in that area is 70 mph and no speed restrictions were posted at that time, according to the NTSB.