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Confidence Men

by Thomas MacMillan | Feb 20, 2014 4:38 pm

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Posted to: Transportation

Thomas MacMillan Photo In his attempts to “restore the confidence” of train-riders, new Metro North head Joe Giullietti may enlist the help of inward- and outward-facing cameras, “alerters,” and “positive train control.”

Those safety measures were discussed at a press conference at Union Station Thursday afternoon after U.S. Sen. Dick Blumenthal (pictured) emerged from a private meeting with Giulietti, who took over Metro North leadership 10 years ago. Representatives of the rest of New Haven’s federal delegation were also in the meeting.

Blumenthal said he’s pressing the commuter rail line to implement safety measures in the wake of a number of problems over the last year.

Most significantly, a Metro North train crashed on Dec. 1 2013, killing four people. Last month, Metro North service was suspended for hours due to a computer glitch.

Metro North needs to regain the confidence of its customers, said Giulietti, Blumenthal and Metropolitan Transportation Authority CEO Tom Prendergast at the press conference.

Blumenthal thanked Giulietti (pictured) for taking the reins at Metro North. “He appreciates the extraordinary frustration and even fury he faces among customers,” Blumenthal said. “They have lost patience and so have I.”

Blumenthal promised to keep “feet to the fire” in order to improve train safety. He said he will be pushing specifically for the installation of inward and outward facing cameras on trains. Such cameras, which record the track and the actions of the conductor, are the subject of a forthcoming rule from the Federal Railroad Administration. The cameras are designed to monitor conductors to ensure that they drive alertly and responsibly.

“Four people might be alive today if those cameras had been implemented beforehand,” Blumenthal said.

Giulietti, Blumenthal and Prendergast also mentioned “alerters” and “positive train control” as possible safety measures.

The former is an updated version of the “dead man’s switch,” a pedal that has to be held down to keep a machine running,  Giulietti said. An “alerter” system on a train requires the conductor to interact with the controls at regular intervals, in order to keep the train from shutting down. 

“Positive train control” is a system in which a train automatically responds to rail conditions to maintain safety. If, for instance, a train passes through a 30 mile-per-hour stretch of track, the positive train control system would automatically restrict the train’s speed to that limit.

Prendergast said Metro North was recently a very highly rated rail system, and can be once more. The railway has suffered over the last year due to the retirement of some veteran employees and managers, he said.

Giulietti said he is looking forward to reading the investigatory reports from the December crash. He said he’s still assessing the current state of Metro North and doesn’t want to move too quickly, before he understands what’s happening. “I ask for your indulgence,” he said.

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posted by: DingDong on February 20, 2014  11:14pm

Guess what.  It’s still pretty darn safe.  It’s far safer than driving and I’m sure they are going to be really safe now.  What I am not sure of is whether it’s going to get reliable and faster.  The train is incredibly slow, especially now as they keep adding stops at piddlydink little towns between here and Stamford.  I’m worried that all this focus on safety is just going to make them make the trains even slower.  What we need most of all though are trains that are, yes safe, but also on-time and FASTER.

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