(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) 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 – a $200 device that could have likely saved the life of the Metro-North track foreman Robert Luden who died in a train accident near West Haven on May 28.
“As the saying goes, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words,’” Blumenthal said at the beginning of the hearing. “And we’re going to see two pictures over the course of this hearing – one of them is of a shunt system. This very rudimentary appearing piece of equipment could have saved the life of the Metro-North worker who was killed in West Haven. Cost? About $200. And thankfully, NTSB has recommended in an urgent recommendation that Metro-North use this equipment system-wide. But, for Robert Luden, it’s too late.”
The first panel consisted of witnesses from FRA, NTSB, and the Government Accountability Office, and included NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman. Her testimony is here. The second panel consisted of witnesses from the rail industry, labor sector, and state government, and included Connecticut Transportation Commissioner James Redeker. His testimony is here. Testimony for the other witnesses is available upon request. Video of Blumenthal’s opening statement is here.