LIRR Commuter's Council wants derailment-prevention answers

Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board inspect

Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board inspect the derailed Metro-North train in the Bronx earlier this month. (Dec. 1, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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A commuter watchdog group wants answers on what the Long Island Rail Road is doing to prevent accidents like the fatal derailment of a Metro-North train earlier this month.

The LIRR Commuter's Council Wednesday called on the railroad to provide riders an explanation of its automatic speed-control system.

The council asked the LIRR to tell riders how the accident-prevention system works, where it's in place and what efforts are being made to prevent trains from speeding where the system isn't available.

On Dec. 1, a Metro-North Railroad train derailed in the Bronx, killing four people and injuring 71. The National Transportation Safety Board said the train was going 82 mph as it entered a curve that has a 30-mph speed limit. Representatives of the engineer say he may have momentarily lost focus at the controls.

The council also recommended that the LIRR gather input from surviving passengers of the derailed Metro-North train for use in designing its next fleet of train cars.

"Riders want to make sure that the LIRR is not looking at it as Metro-North's accident," council chairman Mark Epstein said. "Our region's commuter railroads carry hundreds of thousands of riders daily, and there can be no higher priority than their safety."

The council also said the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and other investigative agencies should release, as soon as possible, the findings of the probes into the Metro-North derailment and other recent accidents.

In a statement, LIRR spokesman Aaron Donovan said the agency has explained its speed-control systems to regulators, elected officials and the media "and will be happy to have similar discussions with members of the Commuter's Council."

Donovan also said the MTA is working on implementing various new safety measures "as quickly as possible." That includes creating a "confidential close-call reporting program," as recommended by the Federal Railroad Administration, to protect employees who speak up about safety problems on the job.

The council said it supported the move.

"It is our experience that many incidents that do not result in damage or injuries go unreported, when knowledge of these incidents may be critical to avoid a more serious issue in the future," Epstein said.

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