One year after train wreck, calls sound for safety

Collision at Bridgeport-Fairfield line sent more than 70 riders to hospital

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and Fairfield First Selectman Mike Tetreau called for rail safety improvements Saturday as they marked the one-year anniversary of a derailment and collision that sent more than 70 people the hospital.

Himes, who represents the Fourth Congressional District — which includes Bridgeport and Fairfield — introduced the Rail Safety Enforcement Act with U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-3) and Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-5).

“One year ago, a derailment due to unstable rails and loose embankments caused two trains full of rush-hour commuters to collide, tearing cars open, injuring dozens, and interrupting commutes for days after,” Himes said. “Metro-North now has new leadership and a plan to improve, but I will continue to be vigilant as these plans are put into effect. Metro-North must return to more reliable service and put better safety mechanisms in place, and I was proud to sponsor legislation to make sure one of our nation’s busiest railways works better for the people it serves.”

The Rail Safety Enforcement Act calls for five major fixes:

• Making certain that every rail carrier control cab has an “alerter,” which is an automatic fail-safe device that sounds an alarm when a train engineer seems idle while the train is in motion.

• Ensuring that every rail carrier develops a fatigue risk plan within 60 days and submit it to the Secretary of Transportation.

• Making certain that every carrier reports on their progress in implementing the Positive Train Control System within 180 days of enactment require.

• Requiring the Secretary of Transportation to issue regulations mandating “shunting,” or redundant signal protection for workers on the track.

• Mandating that railroad employees are provided with predictable and defined work and rest schedules.

“My heart goes out to those who were injured, and their families, as a result of this horrific collision,” Finch said. “But this incident should have never happened. And, I strongly urge legislative leaders in our nation’s capitol to back Congressman Himes, Congresswoman Esty, and Congresswoman DeLauro in moving forward with this legislation. It will help crack down on people having to endure unnecessary wrecks like this in the future.”

“This tragedy shocked the entire community,” Tetreau said. “We had always believed that train service was safe and secure. We know that a better job of planning and investing in rail safety is needed for the future. ”

Heavy damage shows the force of the collision of two Metro-North trains at the Fairfield-Bridgeport line on May 17, 2013. (John Kovach Photo)

Heavy damage shows the force of the collision of two Metro-North trains at the Fairfield-Bridgeport line on May 17, 2013. (John Kovach Photo)

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