Metro-North Executives Say Efforts to Improve Are Underway

Feb 27, 2014

MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast before the state's Transportation Committee.
Credit CT-N
Metro-North President Joseph Giulietti.
Credit CT-N

Two Metro-North Railroad executives said on Thursday that the rail line has slowed down its trains, installed new technology, and changed internal management, all in an effort to make commuter rail service better.

MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast and new Metro-North president Joseph Giulietti met with members of the state legislature's transportation committee to talk about reliability and safety with state lawmakers. 

Prendergast said Metro-North has been auditing the speed of trains to determine whether safety has been a problem. The rail line is spending more than $425 million on technology that can automatically stop or slow trains. It also created a chief safety officer job, he said, whose sole focus is safety.

The meeting followed a series of problems with the nation's second-busiest commuter rail service, including two derailments that injured dozens of people and left four people dead, and a power outage that reduced service for nearly two weeks.

House chairman of the committee, State Representative Antonio Guerrera, called Metro-North's problems "appalling." Before the meeting, he said that Metro-North Railroad executives can be replaced if they fail to improve service quickly, and that they're not the only ones for the job. 

A spokesman for the state Department of Transportation said that Connecticut cannot unilaterally replace Metro-North, because it also operates in New York, and that Giulietti works for the MTA, not Connecticut.

In Washington, D.C., Senator Richard Blumenthal is overseeing a hearing on ways to improve rail safety in light of recent incidents in Connecticut and elsewhere. The Senate's Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security, meets Thursday to hear testimony on the state of safety on the nation's passenger and freight rail networks. Blumenthal was named chairman of the subcommittee on Wednesday. 

This report includes information from The Associated Press.