Feds crack down on Metro-North railway

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is ordering the New York Metro-North commuter railway to make changes to its signaling system after the company has suffered four accidents in 2013.

The agency announced on Friday that it is requiring the Metro-North to alter its signals to ensure that speed limits are maintained.

The emegency order also requires Metro-North to operate trains with two employees in the locomotive and provide a list to the agency of locations on its tracks where the speed limit declines by at least 20 miles-per-hour by Tuesday.

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The FRA order also requires the Metro-North to submit a plan for improve the safety of its trains by Dec. 31.

The actions come less than a week after a Metro-North train derailed in the Bronx after traveling 82 miles per hour in an area of track that had a 30 mile-per-hour speed limit. The accident resulted in the deaths of four passengers and caused about 70 others to suffer injuries.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the Obama administration was stepping in to reassure Metro-North passengers.

“Safety is our highest priority, and we must do everything we can to learn from this tragic crash and help prevent future derailments,” Foxx said in a statement. “While we assist the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in carrying out its investigation, this Emergency Order will help ensure that other Metro-North trains travel at appropriate, safe speeds.”

The Sunday crash of the Metro-North train, which was carrying about 150 passengers, follows an earlier collision between two of the railway’s trains earlier this year in Connecticut.

Additionally, a Metro-North worker was killed in May and a freight train that was operating on the railway’s tracks derailed in an area near the site of Sunday’s accident in July.

FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo defended the overall safety of the U.S. rail industry, despite the string of Metro-North mishaps this year.

“Last year was the safest on record for our nation’s rail industry,” Szabo said in a statement. “Even with a 43 percent decline in train accidents nation-wide over the past decade, we must remain steadfast and vigilant to ensure passengers and employees are safe. The public deserves better and our mission is to drive continuous safety improvement.”

The latest Metro-North accident has renewed calls for implementing an automated rail operation system known as Positive Train Control.

Supporters of the automated train technology have argued that it would have prevented Sunday’s crash because computers would have realized the train was traveling too fast as it was approaching a sharp curve.

Congress has mandated that all railways install the automated technology by 2015. However, some rail companies, including Metro-North, had argued that the deadline should be delayed because of the cost of implementing the system.