In Don Stacom’s story today, Gov. Malloy says the state will be looking at other operators when it comes time to open the New Haven-to-Springfield commuter line:
Many are calling for the state to seek another company to run the commuter railroad in Connecticut, and Malloy emphasized that the state will seek proposals from multiple operators, not just Metro-North Commuter Railroad, to run the new commuter service that’s scheduled to start on the New Haven to Springfield line in 2016.
But the governor conceded that “we don’t have a whole lot of leverage” in the 60-year contract with Metro-North. The deal is about halfway through, and comes up for review every five years. The last time Connecticut challenged the pact, an arbitrator sided with the railroad and steeply increased the share of operating costs that the state must pay. Numerous legislators, though, say the state did a poor job of preparing for that arbitration, and would have a much strong case now.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and state Department of Transportation Commissioner James P. Redeker will meet with Metro-North Railroad President Joseph Giulietti and Metropolitan Transit Authority CEO and Chairman Thomas F. Prendergast today to discuss the “resiliency” of the New Haven line in the wake of recent accidents, prolonged delays and other safety issues.
If they need additional bullet points, an advocacy group, the CT Rail Commuters, has a few suggestions. Here are the tweets and retweets from just today:
Our Commuter Comrade, Jim Cameron has issued a “commuter manifesto” blasting Metro-North and formed a “commuter action group” to turn up the volume on problems with the New Haven Line. He wants people to immediately report problems though his new group:
If there’s no heat on your train, report it. If it’s consistently late, report it. If the conductor is rude, report it. Every single time commuters see something wrong, now they can easily report it with detail and with pictures from their Smartphone. The railroad will have precise information to fix what’s wrong and should do it.
Cameron, who recently split with the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council, explains how his group will work:
The Commuter Action Group will be the strongest possible advocate for commuters on Metro-North in Connecticut. We won’t have dues, and everyone can join. But we’ll make our voices heard every day.
The culture of incompetence and unaccountability at Metro-North has got to be reversed. Human error by railroad employees has resulted in deaths, yet nothing seems to change. The Con Ed power problem, the recent stranding of trains without heat on the coldest night of the year and last week’s complete shutdown because somebody ‘pulled a plug’ are all the result of mismanagement, not bad luck.
I’ve been riding Metro-North for almost 25 years and have never heard commuters this angry. Their frustration is more than justified because problems persist while all we get is lip-service from the railroad and Hartford. It’s time to hold them both accountable.
To make your complaints about Metro-North, Cameron has set up a web page. He has also set up accounts on Facebook and Twitter.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal is calling for a federal agency to investigate the latest electrical problems with the Metro-North Commuter Railroad.
Blumenthal was joining his colleague, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, in midtown Manhattan for a press conference on Friday night regarding the two hour delays that were caused Thursday night during a maintenance project.
”’We are going to be calling for an investigation by the Federal Railway Administration – with accountability for whoever made the decision to do this maintenance at the peak usage hour on one of the coldest days of the year,” Blumenthal told Capitol Watch via cell phone on his way to the press conference. ‘’There needs to be accountability here. This culture and management failure is simply unacceptable. There needs to be an action plan and systemic reform, not just ad hoc changes.” Continue reading
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal will brave the snowstorm for a media appearance at the Bridgeport train station where he is expected to excoriate the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for failing to report a Metro-North train collision that killed a woman last week. Blumenthal wants MTA to adopt “immediate notification” procedures when a train hits something.
Annette White, whose body was found in the Saugatuck River, may have been struck by a train. According to Blumenthal, Metro-North never reported the incident to police.
I’ve asked the MTA for a comment.
Here’s an excerpt from Blumenthal’s letter to MTA President Thomas F. Prendergast:
This tragic incident demonstrates dramatically a continued failure in safety policies and culture. Basic common sense and professional protocols should require immediate notification of MTA police, local authorities and possibly emergency responders. There currently appears to be no such requirement. If a train hits any object — especially a human being — failure to transmit such information right away seems to contradict fundamental safety requirements. The reported absence of blood on the train’s front end– difficult to credit, in any event– is no reason not to report.
We recommend that MetroNorth institute policies and procedures requiring immediate notification of local authorities any time a train hits an object and provide such authorities with the train speed and likely impact area if the object was a person. Local authorities – working with MetroNorth — would have the requisite information in which to determine if a person was struck by the train and search for the body. It is possible that immediate reaction to the incident report may save a life or prevent more serious injuries due to exposure or unattended injuries.
That’s what some Connecticut legislators are talking about in the wake of a year-long safety crisis on the country’s busiest commuter line.
“We owe it to the people of Connecticut to vet other vendors for our rail service,” state Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, said at a hearing by the legislature’s transportation committee.
“Connecticut residents pay 65 percent of the costs associated with the functioning of Metro-North rail lines. Yet, recently service has deteriorated and this year the inaction of Metro North to not invest in safety improvements has sadly turned into multiple tragedies.”
More from Don Stacom here.
The May 17 train derailment and the collision of two trains near the Bridgeport-Fairfield border on the New Haven line has forced Metro-North to run slower trains so that repairs could be made. These “slow orders” have reduced train speeds and added minutes to nearly all train schedules.
The slower trains could continue through the winter, Metro-North told Gov. Malloy in a report Tuesday:
… Metro-North implemented a new train schedule on August 19 that added up to 6 – 7 minutes of travel time on New Haven Line trains to accommodate the work that was being done. On November 17, with significant work completed, Metro-North issued a new schedule that removed about 1 minute in most train schedules when compared to August timetable. Through this entire period, Metro-North experienced service delays in excess of the normal performance that has historically run over 95% on time. While there is still work to be done in the spring, Metro-North is planning to issue another revised timetable in mid-January that removes another 1-2 minutes from the most train schedules.
… Metro-North has committed to review all its schedules before its April 6 schedule change and will advise CTDOT as to the schedule to restore train schedules to their pre-derailment times. Connecticut DOT has indicated that a plan to achieve the former schedule times as soon as possible must be aggressively implemented. Metro-North is working toward that goal while ensuring that the schedules that are developed and implemented can be operated safely and reliably.
The General Assembly’s Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on rail safety and Connecticut’s railroad infrastructure on Jan. 18 at 2:15 p.m. Witnesses will include the commissioner of transportation.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal promised to continue his push for cameras on trains following a deadly Metro-North crash in the Bronx earlier this month.
After a devastating 2008 rail collision in California, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that trains install two types of cameras: inward facing ones to monitor train crew performance and outward facing ones to monitor crossing accidents and to show deficiencies on the tracks.
The Federal Railroad Administration has yet to put these recommendations into place, a delay Blumenthal called “inexcusable and inexplicable.”
“Shame on the Federal Railway Administration for failing to require [them] and also shame on Metro-North for failing to implement it voluntarily,” he said Monday morning.
Two days after a Metro-North train derailed in the Bronx, killing four and injuring scores, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is asking the commuter rail line to develop an action plan addressing safety reporting and other issues on its system.
“This incident…points to the need to focus on several key aspects of the relationship between the [Metropolitan Transit Authority], Metro-North and Connecticut, including communication and oversight practices,” Malloy said in a letter sent Tuesday to MTA Chairman Thomas F. Prendergast and Metro-North President Howard Permut.