FRA Orders Metro-North to Follow Speed Limits

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on Friday issued an Emergency Order to Metro-North Commuter Railroad, mandating the railroad take immediate steps to ensure its train crews do not exceed speed limits.

The order, issued less than a Metro-North week after a wreck killed four passengers an injured more than 60 others, requires the railroad to modify its existing signal system to ensure speed limits are obeyed and to provide two qualified railroad employees to operate trains where major speed restrictions are in place until the signal system is updated.

“Safety is our highest priority, and we must do everything we can to learn from this tragic crash and help prevent future derailments,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “While we assist the National Transportation Safety Board in carrying out its investigation, this Emergency Order will help ensure that other Metro-North trains travel at appropriate, safe speeds.”

The order requires Metro-North to provide the FRA with a list of main track locations where there is a reduction of more than 20 mph in the maximum authorized passenger train speed by December 10, 2013. Metro-North was also ordered to identify modifications to its existing automatic train control system or other signal systems to enable advance warning of and adherence to speed restrictions.

These modifications will help prevent another over-the-speed-limit event if a locomotive engineer fails to take actions to appropriately slow or stop a passenger train, the FRA said

In the meantime, Metro-North is ordered to operate trains with two qualified train crew members in the controlling locomotive cab or passenger car control compartment at the locations where speed limits change by 20 mph or more until the signal work at these locations is complete. Additionally, the railroad must submit to the FRA for approval an Action Plan that ensures the safety of its operations for passengers and employees by December 31. The plan must contain target dates and milestones for implementing necessary signal system modifications.

“Last year was the safest on record for our nation’s rail industry,” FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo said in a statement. “Even with a 43 percent decline in train accidents nation-wide over the past decade, we must remain steadfast and vigilant to ensure passengers and employees are safe. The public deserves better and our mission is to drive continuous safety improvement.”