A scathing new federal review is condemning Metro-North Railroad's safety practices in light of several recent accidents.
The Federal Railroad Administration's analysis concludes the agency puts on-time performance over rider safety.
It also found that the railroad has created "a deficient safety culture that has manifested itself in increased risk and reduced safety."
The FRA determined that Metro-North bosses pressured workers to rush when responding to signal failures, and says cellphone use while on the job is "commonplace and accepted."
The wide-ranging review also mentions inadequate training of track inspectors, rushed maintenance work, lack of adequate safety reviews and poorly attended safety meetings.
When asked when things started going wrong at Metro-North, Joseph Szabo, administrator of the FRA, said, "It's hard to determine exactly when the trend first started, and also, it's clear that this did not occur overnight. Likely, it's one of those things that the slippage started very slowly and then began accelerating. Historically, Metro-North's safety record was an exemplary one, and they were known as one of the finest commuter railroads in the nation, and I think clearly, our findings are an indication of what can happen when you get complacent and you take your eye off the ball."
Metro-North has had a string of incidents in the past 12 months, including one earlier this week in which a Metro-North worker was killed.
The head of the FRA pointed out that infrastructure upgrades to the Metro-North lines could help improve safety, and Metro-North has, over the past couple of months, begun implementing new safety procedures.
Joseph Giulietti took over for former Metro-North president Howard Permut in January and issued a short response ahead of the formal release of the report.
In it, he said, "Metro-North is taking aggressive actions to affirm that safety is the most important factor in railroad operations, and we welcome the FRA's continued involvement to help Metro-North establish a consistent safety first culture throughout the railroad."
Metro-North is required to respond to the FRA in the next 60 days outlining how they're going to improve safety along their lines.