NTSB issues urgent recommendations to FRA, New York MTA

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WASHINGTON — The Federal Railroad Administration and the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority are reacting to urgent recommendations from safety officials that the agencies immediately make new rules for freight trains when signals go down, and, with regard to Long Island Rail Road, operating practices in work zones.

National Transportation Safety Board members have called on FRA to issue an emergency order requiring railroads to use extra caution in signaled areas that have signals suspended, for any reason.

Specifically, NTSB officials want the first train that approaches a realigned switch in suspended signal territory to approach it at restricted speed until the approaching train crew confirms switch alignment with the dispatcher. If the switch was properly lined, then the train crew can operate at maximum authorized speed for the territory.

The recommendation is a direct result of the Feb. 4 Amtrak Silver Star crash in Cayce, S.C. In that crash, the passenger train approached a misaligned switch on the main line at almost 60 mph in an area with signals that had been temporarily taken out-of-service for positive train control-related work. NTSB investigators are looking into why the switch was misaligned on the CSX Transportation track but called in as properly lined.

Restricted speed, generally, requires a train crew to move at a speed that allows them to stop at no more than half the distance they can see ahead of the train, and not more than 20 mph.

"Safety is the absolute priority of the FRA. We will review the safety recommendations NTSB announced this morning. FRA remains committed to keeping the traveling public safe," an FRA representative tells Trains News Wire.

Had the Silver Star crew been operating at restricted speed, they could have, in theory, stopped the train before running over the misaligned switch.

In a separate recommendation, NTSB officials say that the MTA should audit Long Island Rail Road practices with regard to train approach warnings that give maintenance-of-way crews or other track workers a minimum of 15 seconds to find a safe place should a train approach the track they are working on — and immediately correct any deficiencies found in the audit.

The recommendation stems from the NTSB's review of a June 10, 2017, death of a LIRR worker who was killed while he was in the gauge of an interlocking at Queens Village, N.Y.

“The safety of our employees and customers is the absolute top priority for everyone at the MTA. We have robust safety programs and training in place and very strict rules and regulations to ensure worker safety," MTA representative Aaron Donovan tells Trains. "We will work closely with NTSB as we implement their recommendations.”

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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