HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The National Transportation Safety Board has issued an urgent safety recommendation after a Metro-North Railroad track foreman was struck and killed by a passenger train last month.
The NTSB, which said it is still investigating the May 28 accident, urged the railroad on Monday to provide backup protection for track maintenance crews who now depend on train dispatchers.
Robert Luden, 52, was hit by a train in West Haven. The NTSB said Luden, of East Haven, had requested the track section be taken out of service for maintenance. That was done, but the NTSB said that before the work was finished the section was placed back into service by a student traffic controller who didn’t have the required approval of a qualified controller or the foreman.
The NTSB said Metro-North, which operates between New York City and Connecticut, had already tightened its procedures after another rail traffic controller mistakenly placed a track section back into service May 4. The board recommended use of a device known as a shunt, which work crews can attach to rails in a work zone to alert controllers and approaching trains.
“Metro-North can take immediate action to ensure the safety of work crews on their tracks,” NTSB Chair Deborah A.P. Hersman said. “Shunting tracks is simple, feasible and readily available.”
Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said the railroad has received the recommendation and “will implement safety improvements as quickly as possible.”
“Safety is our first priority,” she said in an email.
Anders said that since the fatal accident Metro-North has required approval by the chief rail traffic controller to remove a track block. She said Metro-North is developing new technology to require mechanical input from the track worker to start and end blocks.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who’s leading a Wednesday committee hearing on rail safety, urged Metro-North to immediately implement the recommendation. He said the hearing will consider whether the shunt technology should be required.
“Railroad workers shouldn’t have to risk their lives to repair tracks,” he said.
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