TribLIVE

| USWorld


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Safety backup present on all Metro-North trains in New York City

REUTERS
New York Police Department officials use a boat to search the water around the site of a Metro-North train derailment on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013, in the Bronx borough of New York City.

Daily Photo Galleries

By The Associated Press
Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, 7:27 p.m.
 

NEW YORK — After a speeding Metro-North Railroad commuter train barreled into a curve and derailed in New York City on Dec. 1, safety advocates said similar deadly accidents might soon be avoided. Railroads across the country are preparing to deploy high-tech control systems that will let computers automatically slow trains that are moving too fast or headed for a collision.

Yet there is low-tech equipment, widely available since the Great Depression, that could have prevented the crash, and every Metro-North train has it.

For many years, the trains have been outfitted with control systems that will sound an alarm if an engineer exceeds a designated speed or blows through a red light, then robotically slam on the brakes if the driver doesn't respond.

Historically, though, the system has been used on Metro-North mainly to keep trains from colliding, not to enforce speed limits on curves, hills or bridges.

That meant that no alarm sounded when engineer William Rockefeller failed to slow as he approached a tight curve in the Bronx. Federal investigators said the train was moving at 82 mph, well above the curve's 30 mph speed limit. Four people died in the wreck. Rockefeller said he became dazed or nodded at the controls, according to federal investigators, his lawyer and a union official.

A week after the derailment, Metro-North adjusted its signaling system so trains approaching the bend too fast will trigger the alarm and automatic braking system.

Similar upgrades are planned during the next few months to enforce speed limits at eight other curves and bridges in Metro-North's 384-mile system.

The relatively quick fix for the deadly section of track raises a question: Why wasn't it done sooner?

The simplest answer seems to be that on most rail systems, engineers have been seen as capable of handling routine speed adjustments on curves and bridges without mechanical backup.

 

 
 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Nation

  1. AP: Hagel to resign as secretary of defense
  2. Boy with fake gun shot by officer dies
  3. Police code of conduct aims to curb unlawful seizures from motorists
  4. Ohio dairy farmers cashing in on gas well boom
  5. Report: College judicial boards work secretively
  6. Tension, anxiety mount in Ferguson as grand jury ruling awaited
  7. E-cigarettes cut cravings, study finds
  8. Graham rejects GOP Benghazi report as ‘garbage’
  9. Tufts center study: It costs $2.6B to get drug to market
  10. Nevada speaker-elect steps down amid criticism
  11. Letter that inspired Beat poet Kerouac discovered
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.