Federal Railroad Administration Launches Operation Deep Dive

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Inspectors to conduct 60-day comprehensive safety assessment of Metro-North

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today announced the launch of a 60-day comprehensive safety assessment of Metro-North Commuter Railroad in response to the December 1st crash. Operation Deep Dive, beginning December 16, 2013, will exhaustively review Metro-North’s compliance with federal regulations, its procedures and practices, and its safety culture.

“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. “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.”

On Monday, December 16, U.S. Department of Transportation technical and human factors experts will begin a comprehensive review and assessment of safety-critical procedures and processes at Metro-North. 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.

“Encouraging a safety stand-down with employees and issuing an Emergency Order and Safety Advisory after the recent Metro-North accident were all necessary first steps to immediately secure and improve safety, and we commend Governor Cuomo and MTA in taking those steps,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. “Operation Deep Dive allows FRA to further identify sources of risk and drive continuous safety improvement.  This approach will help restore public confidence in Metro-North and is evidence of FRA’s safety program that has helped reduce train accidents nation-wide by 43 percent over the last decade.”

After Operation Deep Dive is complete, FRA will issue a report with findings and recommendations. FRA will further evaluate Metro-North’s compliance with the Emergency Order, its effectiveness in fulfilling the recommendations in the Safety Advisory, and then consider if additional actions are necessary to strengthen safety at Metro-North.

On December 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. For a description of FRA’s increased oversight and enforcement of Metro-North’s rail lines since May 2013, see our Safety Action Plan.

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