(Hartford, CT) – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) announced today that Metro-North Railroad will implement a pilot program within the next four weeks to install shunting devices on portions of its New Haven Line.
Following an urgent recommendation from the National Transportation Safety Board and the urging of Blumenthal, the shunt pilot program was confirmed today in a letter to Blumenthal from MTA President Howard Permut.
Blumenthal will hold a media availability at Room 1A in the Legislative Office Building in Hartford at noon, today, Friday, June 21. For those unable to attend the press conference, Blumenthal will hold a media conference call at 2 PM today. To join the conference call, please call 661-673-8600 and use the passcode 820136#.
Earlier this week the National Transportation Safety Board issued an urgent recommendation to require redundant signal protection such as shunting. Such technology could have prevented the death of Metro-North track foreman Robert Luden, who was killed near West Haven on May 28 while working on a track that should have been out of service due to construction work.
“This step will help save lives. This pilot shunt system, hopefully leading to a full roll out, is commendably part of a major refocus on rail safety at MTA. It should be followed by more technologically advanced measures that enable trains to be warned and stopped when workers or others are in danger. The shunt system is simple, feasible and inexpensive-- each device costing about $200-- and likely could have prevented the death of Metro-North foreman Robert Luden. I am pleased that MTA has heeded the urgent recommendation of the National Transportation Safety Board, and my urging. I look forward to working with MTA as it continues pro-active steps to assure the safety of its passengers and workers, and I will continue to champion with our Congressional delegation the profoundly important infrastructure needs of our northeast corridor railroads,” Blumenthal said.
On Wednesday, Blumenthal chaired a hearing of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation entitled “Staying on Track: Next Steps in Improving Passenger and Freight Rail Safety” – a hearing he requested in light of recent train accidents in Connecticut, Maryland, and Missouri. During the hearing, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) confirmed that the May 15 inspection report of the Metro-North railroad shows that there were safety issues on the track prior to the train derailment near Bridgeport. Blumenthal also emphasized the need for MTA to adopt shunt technology.
The first panel consisted of witnesses from FRA, NTSB, and the Government Accountability Office, and included NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman. The second panel consisted of witnesses from the rail industry, labor sector, and state government, and included Connecticut Transportation Commissioner James Redeker.