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Panel recommends steps to improve MTA rail safety

NEW YORK – A blue ribbon panel appointed to study safety and maintenance practices at the MTA’s three railroads – Metro-North, Long Island and New York City Transit – has released its final recommendations for improvement, including creating better data systems to monitor track conditions, adjusting schedules to provide more time for track work, and bolstering the safety culture at Metro-North.

The panel identified the safety culture at Metro-North as an area of particular concern, and found the railroad’s emphasis on on-time performance did not leave employees with enough time to perform necessary inspection and maintenance work on the tracks.

The panel said all three railroads should develop data systems to monitor all track elements through their lifecycle and integrate inspection data to provide all workers with the best possible understanding of track asset conditions.

The panel also said a confidential close-call reporting system would provide Metro-North and LIRR a better opportunity to understand safety risk before they lead to incidents.

The panel said the MTA has taken many steps already to improve safety since it began its work. Chairman Thomas Prendergast created a chief safety officer position, ordered all operating agencies to designate a top official who is solely responsible for safety and reports directly to the agency president, and create a safety committee of the MTA Board.

Metro-North Railroad came under the microscope last year after a number of accidents including one last December in the Bronx in which four people were killed.