Schumer calls on federal gov’t to look into LIRR safety rules

By Philip Newman

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has urged federal railroad officials to examine the Long Island Rail Road’s safety procedures following a 60-day federal probe into Metro-North Railroad, where investigators reported a culture of safety was lacking.

Operation Deep Dive, a 60-day investigation by the Federal Railroad Administration into Metro-North, came after four accidents that included fatalities

“Safety remains the LIRR’s No. 1 priority for customers and for our employees,” the LIRR said. “We welcome any additional insights from the FRA on how to improve the LIRR’s strong culture of safety.”

The Long Island Rail Road is the busiest commuter railroad in the country.

“The MTA will examine safety needs and requirements at the Long Island Rail Road in the same manner as Metro-North Railroad because it holds both railroads to the same standard,” the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said. “Both railroads are working together to procure and install Positive Train Control as quickly as possible, both railroads made immediate improvements to signaling and speed controls after the December crash at Spuyten Duyvil and both railroads are responsive to the all-agency safety changes announced by Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast.”

But Schumer is pressing for further safeguards.

“The FRA clearly found something rotten at Metro-North and we need to make sure that rot hasn’t spread to the LIRR,” Schumer told a news conference in Mineola, L.I., Tuesday.

“We got the FRA the resources it needs to do investigations like this in the last budget bill, and now it’s time for the FRA to step up to the plate and make sure Metro-North’s sister railroad does not have the same safety problems,” Schumer said. “Before its recent spate of back-to-back accidents, Metro-North had a top-notch safety record and we want to catch any mistakes the LIRR is making before it’s too late.”

Schumer said the LIRR has a good safety record, but recent reports mentioned some “troubling incidents.” He pointed out that “Metro-North also had an almost flawless record before these four deadly and serious accidents.”

The FRA report said Metro-North was not providing adequate training to track inspectors, engineers, conductors and maintenance workers to comply with safety mandates.

The report also found that many supervisors do not follow the industry standard of conducting at least one face-to-face meeting annually with each engineer and conductor.

The agency said Metro-North also does not train any of its testing officers on how to conduct the operational testing and that investigators found most maintenance workers were being pushed into long overtime schedules, increasing the likelihood of fatigue.

Finally, the report said Metro-North prioritized on-time performance over safety.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at [email protected] or phone at 718-260-4536.