In response to two major rail accidents this year involving Metro-North commuter trains, federal investigators will hold hearings in October. The hearings’ purpose is to gather information about the Bridgeport, Connecticut derailment that injured 76 people and the subsequent death of a track foreman near West Haven that occurred only a week and a half later. The National Transportation Safety Board’s Washington headquarters will host the hearings at which many hope passengers will have an opportunity to speak.
At the hearings, Metro-North will need to answer for compelling evidence regarding its knowledge of dangerous conditions that contributed to the crash, which involved two trains carrying around 700 passengers in total. Specifically, Metro-North will need to address evidence that it had knowledge of hazardous track conditions prior to the crash, which it deemed unnecessary to remedy immediately as being within the Federal Railroad Administration’s safety guidelines.
With regard to the West Haven train accident, in which foreman Robert Luden lost his life, Metro-North may have even more serious problems to address. Prior to his death Luden was working on a section of track that he requested be removed from service for maintenance. Despite his requests and without necessary approval, a controller placed the section of track back in service, which ultimately resulted in Luden’s death. In accordance with National Transportation Safety Board recommendations, Metro-North has already instituted a pilot program using various devices, the railroad’s signal system and physical barriers on closed tracks, to signal engineers to avoid out-of-service sections of track.
Hopefully, these hearings will result in greater safety for commuter rail passengers and workers in the Northeast and beyond. For those that have already been injured in train accidents, no time should be wasted in speaking with a lawyer who understands railroad injuries.