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Subway Track Training Keeps Workers, Movie Stars Safe

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Millions of New Yorkers ride the subway every day, but only see tracks and tunnels from the safety of a platform or a train. For those who go into those off-limits areas, there are precautions to take to stay safe from dangers in the dark. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.

There's the view all subway riders know—and the view that the MTA never wants them to see.

"If you're a regular train customer you should never get out of the platform or the train. You should never be down on the tracks for any reason," says MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg.

Well, we found one: going into a subway tunnel for track safety certification as trains rolled past. All to get a feel for what some workers experience daily across more than 800 miles of track.

"It's an amazing ballet 24 hours a day. But you also get a real appreciation for how dangerous it can be and a real appreciation for what the people who work down there all day long long have to put up with," Lisberg says.

No one's going into this underworld without first taking a course in track safety and survival—as we did, with veteran track supervisor Jeff Spezzano.

He helps train the thousands of transit employees, contractors, police officers and even movie stars who, every year, need to get up close and personal with 400-ton trains while on the job.

"We want to make sure that anybody who goes on or near the tracks, they're aware of all the hazards and problems that would arise if they're on or near the tracks and a train approaches," says Spezzano.

Like how to maneuver around live third rails, where to find an exit in a subway tunnel and how to safely stand just inches from passing trains.

He leads the course in a classroom wallpapered with old newspaper articles about past worker track tragedies.

"They didn't pay particular attention to where they were on the tracks, they weren't aware of their surroundings. And the train snuck up on them," Spezzano says.

Local and express trains aren't sneaking up on anyone in this tunnel, as workers take every precaution to keep their charges alert and alive.

"We'll take our time getting off of the track. That cool?" Spezzano says to those of us taking his course.

Yes, it certainly is.

With track training successfully out of the way and participants safely back on the platform, they're awarded a certificate, allowing them back onto the tracks over the next two years.

Got A Transit Tip?

Do you have a news tip or story idea about the city's transit systems? Send an email to NY1 Transit Reporter Jose Martinez.

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