MTA president Thomas F. Prendergast speaks to the press after...

MTA president Thomas F. Prendergast speaks to the press after a board meeting in the lower manhattan office on April 29, 2015. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

The head of the MTA Wednesday assured customers that the region's transportation network has technology in place to help prevent accidents like one that killed eight Amtrak passengers last week.

At a meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board, MTA chairman and chief executive Thomas Prendergast said the December 2013 crash of a Metro-North train that derailed after speeding through a sharp curve in the Bronx taught the MTA lessons about the importance of "overspeed protections."

"Clearly, we knew that we had to do things to be to address issues related to . . . a train, a locomotive engineer, who did not respond properly" to speed limit restrictions, Prendergast said.

Soon after the Metro-North derailment, which killed four, the MTA installed automatic speed control technology at all sharp curves and bridges on Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road. The technology automatically slows a train if it approaches too fast.

Prendergast said that similar technology, called grade time signaling, already was in place on the New York City Transit Authority subway system. Nevertheless, Prendergast assured the public that the MTA will be closely watching the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation into the May 12 Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia, which also injured more than 200 people as the train took a 50-mph curve at 106 mph.

"We take a look at any accident that occurs and gather as much information from that accident as it's developing," Prendergast said.

The MTA has said it is moving forward on a $1 billion plan to install positive train control accident prevention technology on the LIRR and Metro-North by 2018. The technology uses radio transponders installed on tracks and in trains to automatically slow down or stop a train if it's going too fast, about to hit another train, or violates a signal.

The Long Island Rail Road Council Wednesday called on the LIRR to learn at least one valuable lesson from the Amtrak accident: the importance of designing train cars with passengers' safety in mind.

With the LIRR's next fleet of M-9 electric train cars being designed, the council urged the LIRR to use input from passengers from recent train accidents to "inform the design of passenger protection and car evacuation systems."

"We believe that it is critical that we learn from these tragedies to lessen the risk of similar incidents in the future and that necessary resources be available to put into practice any lessons learned from these accidents," LIRR Commuter Council chairman Mark Epstein said.

The council also renewed its call for an LIRR rider to be appointed to Amtrak's board of directors, saying that the move would benefit Amtrak because the two agencies share many facilities, including Penn Station.

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