House Dems file commuter rail safety bill

 

A group of Democratic lawmakers in the House who represent districts in New York and Connecticut introduced a bill on Tuesday to boost commuter railway safety after a series of high-profile accidents last year. 

Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Jim Himes (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.), and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) said their bill, which has been dubbed the Rail Safety Enforcement Act,  would address concerns about gaps in the regulations of U.S. railways that were raised after their states' Metro-North commuter railway suffered four accidents in 2013. 

The lawmakers said their measure would require railroad companies to install an alert system into their train cabs that would provide warning when a driver appears to be sitting idle too long. The bill would also require railways to update federal regulators on their progress installing computerized train operation systems known as Positive Train Control, which they are currently required to complete by 2015. 

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The bill would also require the railroad industry to create plans for managing driver fatigue and providing adequate rest between work schedules for employees. 

The lawmakers said the changes they were including in their proposed legislation were long overdue. 

“We should take every precaution to prevent rail accidents from happening,” Rep. DeLauro said in a statement. “That is our duty.  The Rail Safety Enforcement Act is comprehensive, common-sense legislation that will improve rail safety all across the nation. Our first responsibility for our train systems has to be ensuring the public safety.”

Rep. Himes agreed, saying the accidents on the Metro-North commuter railway last year compelled lawmakers to act. 

“Metro North's string of accidents and delays over the past year is unacceptable and inexcusable,” Himes said in a statement. “One of the busiest commuter rail lines in the country must be safer and must be more reliable – it is critical to our safety and to our region’s continued economic vitality. I am pleased to join my colleagues in introducing legislation that will help ensure that accidents like the Bronx derailment and the death of a Metro-North track worker earlier this year will never happen again.”

AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department President Ed Wytkind said Tuesday that members of unions that represent rail company employees supported the proposed legislation to boost commuter train safety. 

“Rail employees, as well as riders and communities on the railroads, deserve the peace of mind of knowing that railroads are as safe as possible," Wytkind said in a statement released by the sponsors of the bill. 

"The legislation is a significant step forward in making sure our railroads are operating with the best practices while protecting the people who work on them,” Wytkind continued.  “We urge Congress to move this legislation without delay."

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