MTA looks to add new safety equipment

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The MTA is taking the first steps toward installing new monitoring systems on its suburban commuter rail lines to detect potential problems with the wheels and undercarriages of trains, the agency said Friday.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it would seek approval next week from its board of directors to pursue the installation of hot box detectors, which warn of overheated bearings in the axles, and wheel impact load detectors, which can spot wheel defects before they become visible to the naked eye.

It also will seek approval for a tag reader system that will allow it to read the transponders on private freight cars that use its system, the agency said.

"This specialized equipment will improve safety and reduce wear and tear on our tracks," MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast said in a statement Friday. "They are intended to identify faults before they cause problems."

An agency spokeswoman said there was no timetable for installation, and no cost estimate.

The LIRR, which currently has none of these systems, will have a wheel impact load detector and a tag reader installed on the Main Line west of the Bellerose station, the MTA said. Freight enters the LIRR tracks at Long Island City in Queens and Bay Ridge in Brooklyn.

Metro-North plans to install the systems just east of the Green's Farm station on the New Haven Line and south of Scarborough on the Hudson Line, the agency said.

The announcement came just two days after the MTA said it planned to install inward-facing and outward-facing video cameras and audio recorders on most of its trains.

Both the cameras and the monitoring systems announced Friday are "complicated" and will be purchased through a request for proposals instead of bids, in which the low bidder is usually awarded the contract, the agency said.

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The actions follow calls from the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Railroad Administration and U.S. lawmakers for the MTA to install video cameras on trains facing outward toward the tracks to provide evidence in accidents and inward to serve as a deterrent to inattentive locomotive engineers.

Four people were killed in December when a speeding Metro-North train derailed in the Bronx. Union officials have said the engineer briefly nodded off at the controls as he approached a sharp curve.

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