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NTSB Recommends Revising Track Safety Standards for Commuter Railroads

The National Transportation Safety Board have issued recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration and Metro-North Railroad. The recommendation to FRA is to remove the current inspection exemption for high-density commuter railroads and require all railroads to traverse each main track by vehicle or inspect each main track on foot at least once every two weeks. Current track safety standards exempt high-density commuter railroads like Metro-North from traversing each track they inspect by foot or vehicle. The recommendation to Metro-North advises the railroad to end the practice of using the FRA exemption.

"Safety of our public railways remains first and foremost in achieving NTSB's mission to prevent these types of accidents," said Acting Chairman Christopher A. Hart. "We expect the same level safety on all railroads, freight and passenger alike."

The recommendation comes from the NTSB's ongoing investigation of the derailment and subsequent collision of two Metro-North Railroad passenger trains in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on May 17, 2013.

During the ongoing investigation, NTSB investigators identified broken joint bars of the rail. It was also noted that the last inspection on this rail was conducted using a hi-rail vehicle two days before the accident occurred. Investigators measured the exposed portions of the breaks and determined the gage side bar, which is the bar closest to the centerline of the track, was the first bar to break. Inspection records collected by NTSB investigators revealed that the last inspection was performed from track 2, and that the gage side of the rail on track 4, including the gage side of the joint bar, would not have been visible from a hi-rail vehicle that traveled on track 2.

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