December 3, 2013

Derailed Bronx train was going 82 mph at 30 mph curve

By Jim Fitzgerald And Frank Eltman
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Cars from a Metro-North passenger train are scattered after the train derailed in the Bronx borough of New York on Sunday.

The Associated Press

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Emergency rescue personnel work the scene of a Metro-North passenger train derailment in the Bronx. The train derailed on a curved section of track on Sunday morning, coming to rest just inches from the water.

The Associated Press

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Metro-North has taken steps toward acquiring it but, like many rail lines, has advocated for a few more years to implement a costly system that railroads say presents technological and other hurdles.

Grady Cothen, a former FRA safety official, said a PTC system would have prevented Sunday's crash if the brakes were working normally. And Steve Ditmeyer, a former FRA official who teaches at Michigan State University, said the technology would have monitored the brakes and would not have allowed the train in Sunday's tragedy to exceed the speed limit.

"A properly installed PTC system would have prevented this train from crashing," he said. "If the engineer would not have taken control of slowing the train down, the PTC system would have."

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs Metro-North, began planning for a PTC system as soon as the law was put into effect, MTA spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said. After some early-stage work such as buying radio frequencies, the MTA awarded $428 million in contracts in September to develop the system for Metro-North and its sister Long Island Rail Road.

But the MTA has advocated for an extension to 2018, saying it's difficult to install such a system across more than 1,000 rail cars and 1,200 miles of track.

"It's not a simple, off-the-shelf solution," Anders said Monday.

On Sunday, the train was about half full, with about 150 people aboard, when it ran off the rails around 7:20 a.m. while rounding a bend where the Harlem and Hudson rivers meet. The lead car landed inches from the water.

The dead were identified as Donna L. Smith, 54, of Newburgh; James G. Lovell, 58, of Cold Spring; James M. Ferrari, 59, of Montrose; and Kisook Ahn, 35, of Queens.

Some patients remained hospitalized Monday, including seven in intensive care at one hospital and two patients in critical condition at another.

The train was configured with its locomotive in the back instead of the front. Weener said that is common, and a train's brakes work the same way no matter where the locomotive is located. Ditmeyer said the locomotive's location has virtually no effect on train safety.

Still, some people feel the configuration provides less protection for passengers because if the train hits something, there's no locomotive in front to absorb the blow, said Bill Henderson, executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, a riders' advocacy group.

The derailment came amid a troubled year for Metro-North, and marked the first time in the railroad's 31-year history that a passenger was killed in an accident.

In May, a train derailed in Bridgeport, Conn., and was struck by a train coming in the opposite direction, injuring 73 passengers, two engineers and a conductor. In July, a freight train full of garbage derailed near the site of Sunday's wreck.

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