After a fatal derailment and several other disasters, Metro-North is changing its focus from punctuality and on-time performance to safety statistics and messages.
The change is in response to a recent review about Metro-North’s “deficient safety culture.”
“While good progress has been made, much more needs to be done,” Joseph J. Giulietti, Metro-North’s president, wrote in a letter to the railroad administration. “The problems identified by the F.R.A. clearly developed over a long period and will take continued, relentless focus and ongoing attention to fully correct.”
The review reported that there was a strong emphasis on prompt arrivals in replace for safety measures. Workers were encouraged to rush when responding to signal failures and others reported struggling to secure the track time needed to make essential repairs. In its response, Metro-North said it had reviewed its schedules “to ensure that sufficient work windows exist to perform necessary maintenance.”
The president has lowered the 2014 on-time performance goal to 93% from 97%. In a statement, the railroad said that “it will not seek to achieve its former high on-time performance numbers until there is a high degree of confidence that safe operation and safe work practices are of paramount importance.”
Several changes have already been made my Metro-North since the federal review including a series of safety stand-downs – exercising in which all employees at a work site are instructed to stop what they are doing to discuss safety measures.
Officials have also emphasized a series of speed reductions carried out across the railroad, to ensure that no train would be required to lower its speed by more than 20 miles per hour as it moved from one speed zone to the next. Positive train control – dictating speeds and slowing trains down around sharp curves – has also been implemented.