Negligence, from human error to poorly-maintained tracks, causes 38 percent of all train accidents. The process behind investigating such an incident, as well as bringing a claim to a train accident attorney, proves to be far more complex than the standard automobile collision, and the recent Metro North derailment in the Bronx reveals this.
For background, the train making an 80-mile trip from Poughkeepsie to Grand Central Station on the Hudson line derailed at a curve in the Bronx where the speed limit changes from 70 mph to 30 mph; the engineer, allegedly nodding off behind the wheel, had been traveling above 80 mph. The locomotive and seven passenger cars fell off the track, killing four people and injuring 67 more in the process.
Investigation since the December 1 incident revealed the train had an emergency system in place. Called the “dead man’s pedal” in the industry, the feature designed to stop a train if the engineer becomes incapacitated did not activate – some assume because the engineer had his hands on the wheel. The engineer, as well, claims he applied the brakes but that the train did not stop; the investigation has since revealed the train’s brakes were functioning properly.
This unfortunate incident is one of four serious accidents Metro North experienced in six months. In Connecticut, two passenger trains collided during rush hour; in response, federal organizations examined the track conditions.
Because of Metro North’s record, the Federal Railroad Administration has been looking into potential solutions to guard against an accident of this caliber occurring again. One is the C3RS program, in which railroad employees could come forward with safety issues. Another is “positive train control,” or an automatic braking system.
It’s estimated that, nationally, implementing positive train control could cost $2.75 billion, with the government footing a large percentage of the costs. As a result of an order Congress instituted in 2008, rail lines, including Metro North, have until the end of 2015 to come up with a similar solution. As of last month, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority allotted $210 million to set up a positive control system, and the project has already passed into the design phase.
However, keep in mind that other trains traversing the Northeastern corridor, such as Amtrak, have had this type of system in place since the early 2000s. Additionally, train ridership continues to increase – up 42 percent since 1990 – with the New Haven to Grand Central Metro North line being the most traveled.