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Washington Beat: Lawmakers Question Metro-North Safety Record

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TWC News: Washington Beat: Lawmakers Question Metro-North Safety Record
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As investigators try to determine what caused Sunday's deadly derailment, lawmakers in Washington are questioning whether Metro-North needs to take a look at its safety record. Washington bureau reporter Michael Scotto filed the following report for NY1.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Sen. Charles Schumer was stunned by news that the Metro-North train that derailed on Sunday was traveling at 82 miles per hour.

"When I heard about the speed, I gulped. It sort of takes your breath away," Schumer said.

The crucial finding will help investigators piece together exactly what happened. Bob Francis once served as the vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, and he says that the puzzle will all come together once investigators comb through the black boxes and the train engineer's schedule leading up to the derailment.

"They will look at his previous day or couple of days, how much sleep did he get, etc.," Francis said.

On Capitol Hill, attention is likely to turn to safety, with lawmakers like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand raising questions about Metro-North's record after a string of incidents this year.

One area of focus may be whether Positive Train Control, a technology system that slows or stops trains that are going too fast, could have prevented the derailment. Schumer says it's too soon to tell, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who sits on the House panel overseeing transportation, wants to take a wait-and-see approach.

"No transportation mechanism has no accidents. We've had relatively few. But yes, of course it raises concerns," Nadler said.

Federal law calls for Positive Train Control to be on all commuter lines by the end of 2015, but Metro-North has already indicated it won't meet that deadline, and the group representing transit systems across the country wants the date pushed back, saying it's expensive and complex to install. The NTSB, however, has long said the technology would help prevent accidents, and may well say so again once it determines why this train went off the tracks.

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