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Metro-North Rail Service Beset By Accidents in Recent Years

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The Metro-North Commuter Railroad formed in 1983 and today covers 775 miles of track with 124 stations in seven New York counties and two in Connecticut. The popular commuter service had experienced a decline in accidents from 2003 to 2012, and no one had been killed in a derailment or collision since 2002 — until a spate of crashes and derailments starting in 2013.

At least seven people were killed after one of its trains slammed into a sport utility vehicle on the tracks north of New York City on Tuesday.

Five accidents occurred on the Metro-North line between May 17, 2013 and March 10, 2014, resulting in the deaths of four passengers and two Metro-North workers, in addition to 126 injuries, some very serious, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The NTSB said its investigation of the accidents determined that Metro-North safety programs weren't effectively used to manage the safety of the service's operations and employees. Metro-North also didn't adequately investigate accidents and incidents to identify and fix safety deficiencies, nor did it correct known deficiencies.

The five accidents included:

May 17, 2013: A rush-hour collision between two trains near Fairfield, Connecticut, wounded some 60 people on both trains. The eastbound train from New York City derailed, stopped and was struck some 20 seconds later by a westbound train, NTSB said. The westbound engineer had engaged the emergency brakes before impact.

May 28, 2013: A Metro-North track worker died after being hit by a train in West Haven, Connecticut. He was on the tracks, working with a crane and moving a boom when he was hit, officials said.

July 18, 2013: A northbound train derailed on the Metro-North Hudson Line. No one was killed or injured. The accident was in part due to Metro-North’s decision to defer scheduled track maintenance, the NTSB said.

Dec. 1, 2013: A derailment in the Bronx killed four people and injured 61. The engineer fell asleep before the train roared into a 30 mph curve at a speed of 82 mph; the accident was blamed on the engineer's undiagnosed sleep disorder and abrupt change in his shift.

March 10, 2014: A Metro-North electrician was fatally struck by a northbound train in Manhattan. He was part of a team of three that had been trying to re-energize tracks out of service for maintenance. The two others cleared the approaching train, the NTSB said. The probable cause of the accident was the miscommunication of the limits of on-track protection resulting from incomplete and inaccurate roadway worker job briefings.

After probing the four Metro-North crashes in New York and Connecticut, excluding the Dec. 1 accident in the Bronx, the NTSB found a lack of track maintenance and poor communication caused the death of two track workers and injury to 65 passengers.

In May 2014, Metro-North Metro-North said it was working to ensure that all employees understood safety was the railroad's "undisputed first priority."

The railroad also pledged to make changes including reorganizing the safety department to centralize oversight of all training functions.

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