Thursday, December 25, 2014

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MTA Agrees To Feds' Push For Safety Refresher

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Federal rail officials this week issued a blistering criticism of safety procedures on the MTA's Metro-North line following Sunday's derailment, and now the agency is responding by ordering new training for all workers involved with moving stock. NY1's Vivian Lee filed the following report.

As work was getting under way to replace the rail bed, tracks and signal system that were mangled in Sunday's derailment, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority confirmed that employees who work with trains would be put through a round of safety retraining and reminders starting Thursday.

"We're going to have a safety stand down which is when all employees responsible for moving trains will be discussing and meeting about safety and what they need to do to ensure full safety. And that's partly as a result of this derailment," said MTA Spokesman Aaron Donovan.

It's the result of a reprimand from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration. A letter from those agencies urged MTA officials to conduct the safety retraining and institute a new system for raising safety red flags in advance, saying "Four serious accidents in less than seven months is simply unacceptable."

Still, commuters welcomed the return of most train service on the Hudson Line Wednesday morning, whose local runs stop in Spuyten Duyvil. They reacted to comments from a railroad union spokesman that train engineer William Rockefeller nodded off at the controls moments before the derailment.

"I'm sure he didn't purposely fall asleep. Sounds like they said before he's a good guy. We could all be in that place God forbid," said one Metro-North rider.

"I don't think they're helping him at all by speaking out on these things. Just let the process go and wait until the end," said another Metro-North rider.

"I assume most of us have been in environments where we have fallen asleep. So, I mean, you feel obviously more terrible for the families of those killed but you also feel terrible for the poor engineer who did this," said a third Metro-North rider.

The MTA still would not comment on William Rockefeller's state of mind or body, saying they don't want to compromise the NTSB's ongoing investigation.

A spokesman did say Rockefeller is officially "out of service" though not suspended, meaning he is not performing his usual duties and not being paid while out.

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