A Miami-area transit executive will head the Metro-North Railroad, replacing the outgoing president whose departure follows last month's deadly derailment in the Bronx, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said Thursday.

Joseph Giulietti, 61, will take over as president of Metro-North after the Jan. 31 retirement of Howard Permut, who has headed the railroad since 2008.

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Giulietti, a former railroad brakeman and assistant conductor, comes to the MTA from the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, where he was executive director for more than 14 years. He previously worked as an executive at Metro-North for 15 years, including when the railroad was formed in 1983.

"I am pleased to welcome Joe Giulietti back to Metro-North, where he will take the reins at a critical moment," said MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast, who added he was confident Giulietti would focus on enhancing Metro-North's "strong operational standards and safety practices."

Permut steps down after a strained year for Metro-North -- the nation's busiest railroad -- that was marked by two major derailments.

On May 17, a train came off the tracks near Bridgeport, Conn., injuring 72 people. Then on Dec. 1, a speeding train derailed near the Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx, killing three passengers and injuring 63.

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"The tragedies and challenges of the past year have deeply affected me as well as all Metro-North employees," Permut said.