Feds Launch 60-Day Probe into Metro North's Safety Culture

Operation Deep Dive starts Monday.

Repairing the track after the fatal Dec. 1 derailment. Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit
Repairing the track after the fatal Dec. 1 derailment. Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit
Metro North's safety procedures, practices and attitudes will be examined from the bottom up and the top down by U.S. Department of Transportation investigators in a 2-month intensive scrutiny that begins Dec. 16.

The fatal Dec. 1 train wreck was the fourth in seven months, alarming commuters and officials.

“Safety is our top priority, and this in-depth investigation will help ensure that Metro-North is doing everything possible to improve its safety record,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a written statement. “Together with our other recent efforts, Operation Deep Dive will give travelers the peace of mind they deserve when traveling throughout the railroad’s region.”

The rail safety team will look at:

  • Track, signal and rolling stock maintenance, inspection and repair practices;
  • Protection for employees working on rail infrastructure, locomotives and rail cars;
  • Communication between mechanical and transportation departments at maintenance facilities;
  • Operation control center procedures and rail traffic controller training;
  • Compliance with federal Hours of Service regulations, including fatigue management programs;
  • Evaluating results of operational data to measure efficiency of employees’ execution and comprehension of all applicable federal regulations;
  • Locomotive engineer oversight;
  • Engineer and conductor certification; and
  • Operating crew medical requirements.
According to Foxx's statement, FRA will issue a report with findings and recommendations and will evaluate Metro-North’s compliance with the federal Emergency Order issued Dec. 6, the commuter railroads's effectiveness in fulfilling the recommendations in the Safety Advisory, and then consider if additional actions are necessary to strengthen safety.

On Dec. 11, FRA issued an industry-wide Safety Advisory to help ensure all railroads adhere to federal regulations and applicable railroad rules regarding maximum authorized train speed limits, officials said.

The Federal Railroad Administration increased inspections and audits of the commuter railroad in May after a derailment and collision in Bridgeport, CT.  After the fatal derailment Dec. 1, FRA again increased its oversight, which it describes in its Safety Action Plan


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