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MTA Safety Panel Cites Need for "Fundamental Rebuilding"

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TWC News: MTA Safety Panel Cites Need for "Fundamental Rebuilding"
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The Metropolitan transportation Authority on Wednesday got a series of safety recommendations from its own panel of experts following last year's deadly Metro-North derailment.

The agency last August convened the Blue Ribbon Panel panel of six transportation experts from around the country to study its approach to safety on the subway and both of its commuter railroads.

Not surprisingly, the panel's findings center on problems at Metro-North, which had a miserable 2013 capped by a December derailment in the Bronx that left four dead and injured more than 70.

That came after two trains collided in Connecticut in the spring of 2013, as well as a worker death.

In its findings, the Blue Ribbon Panel said, "The number of incidents that have occurred in recent months sends a clear message that fundamental rebuilding needs to occur to get to a level of safety achievement that would be acceptable to the rail agency's customers, employees and the communities they serve."

The report said Metro-North overemphasized on-time performance at the expense of safety, something also noted in March by the Federal Railroad Administration.

"Metro-North customers were always very proud of their reliable, on-time performance. But clearly, that came at a price," said MTA Spokesperson Adam Lisberg.

The report also recommends that Metro-North automate its process for studying track conditions, so as to leave more time for track inspections.

One of the recommendations of the panel was to leave more time for track inspections and maintenance, even if it means slower service.

"That's not always popular with our customers, but improving safety is the most important job," Lisberg said.

As for New York City Transit, the report says the safety culture at that agency appears to be performing fairly well.

The report praised its use of Track Geometry Trains to check on rail condition, something Metro-North is in the process of adding.

It points out that rail breaks like the one that may have contributed to the May F train derailment must continue to be addressed.

In a statement, MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast says the agency has already taken significant steps to address safety issues.

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