LEGISLATIVE PRESS RELEASE
Washington, DC – Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey was joined by Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo and other Members of the New York and Connecticut Congressional delegations on a conference call today announcing the Federal Railroad Administration’s “Deep Dive” report to Congress. The report, which includes new revelations about Metro-North safety practices that must be addressed, was required by Lowey in a January spending bill.
“Every day, millions of commuters and other travelers around the country put their health and safety in the hands of mass transit agencies on our roads and rail system,” Lowey said. “The top priority for mass transit agencies – second to none – must be responsible operation in order to keep commuters and other travelers safe.”
Following the December 1 Metro North derailment that killed four passengers, including a constituent of Congresswoman Lowey’s, prior derailments, and the deaths of rail workers in various recent incidents, Lowey took action to require the Federal Railroad Administration to expeditiously evaluate and report to Congress on Metro North’s operations. Major concerns revealed in the report include:
· An overemphasis of on-time performance, cutting corners to keep trains running on-time;
· A poor safety culture with no clear safety advocate to ensure safety issues are addressed; and
· An ineffective training program to ensure the highest qualification standards across all Metro-North Departments, especially the track department.
Lowey said Metro North must take aggressive action to improve its employee training and to instill in employees a paramount commitment to safe operations to protect themselves and the passengers Metro North serves.
“Safety must be the top priority, period,” she said. “On-time performance is no excuse to cut corners that could put passengers at risk.”
Lowey believes the federal government can and should help Metro North and all commuter railroads improve their safety. By law, railroads are expected to implement positive train control (PTC) systems, which prevent collisions and derailments by ensuring that trains are not travelling at excessive speeds, by December 31, 2015. U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Foxx testified on Wednesday before Lowey in the House Appropriations Committee that many will not meet this deadline. Lowey urges passage of the President’s request for $825 million in mandatory funds to assist commuter railroads in implementing this vital technology.