NEW YORK – Metro-North, the nation’s second-largest commuter railroad, allowed safety to erode while pushing to keep its trains on time, resulting in a lax culture of inadequate inspections, poor training and inappropriate cellphone use, according to a stinging federal report prompted by a deadly derailment.
The Federal Railroad Administration, in a report to Congress issued Friday, said Metro-North Railroad’s emphasis on sticking to its schedule “led to a deficient safety culture that has manifested itself in increased risk and reduced safety.”
It said that “no single department or office, including the Safety Department, proactively advocates for safety” at the railroad, which carried more than 83.4 million riders between New York City and its suburbs last year.
FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo said on a conference call that Metro-North “failed to set aside sufficient time” for track inspection and maintenance and resisted testing its crews on its main lines, “the most important place to do it,” for fear of delaying passenger trains.
The agency ordered the railroad to immediately “prioritize safety above all else” and spread that idea.
The review was prompted by a Dec. 1 derailment in the Bronx that killed four passengers and injured about 70 others. But it also cited three other accidents in 2013: a derailment in Bridgeport, Conn., that injured more than 50 people; an accident in West Haven, Conn., that killed a Metro-North worker; and a freight train derailment in June in New York City.
Associated Press videojournalist Joseph B. Frederick contributed to this report.