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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

FRA to investigate Metra due to recent incidents

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has launched a 45-day "deep dive" safety assessment of Metra in response to three incidents involving speeding and signal violations that occurred at the railroad over the past two weeks.

The incidents resulted in three Metra engineers losing their certifications, FRA officials said in a news release issued Friday. The assessment will focus on Metra's program of operational tests and inspections for all its operating crews, with special emphasis on training, qualification and testing of locomotive engineers.

"Our focused deep dive safety assessment will help us better understand the facts that led to these recent events and provide us an opportunity to assess Metra’s testing, training, performance and compliance programs, and ensure the public’s confidence in Metra," said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo. "Railroad safety has significantly improved over the last decade, but we owe it to the public to always do better. Our ultimate goal is to drive continuous safety improvement."

Metra Chief Executive Officer Don Orseno said the agency also is completing an internal investigation into the incidents.

"We are fully committed to working with the FRA and welcome their review," he said. "We share a common goal of making commuter rail travel the safest mode of transportation."

In addition to removing the engineers from operating service pending the completion of the full investigation, Metra has directed managers to meet and review safety procedures with operating personnel, Orseno said.

During the investigation, FRA inspectors will interview all affected employees; and review event recorder tapes and video recordings, operations testing records, radio tapes and Metra’s locomotive engineer qualifications certification program. In addition, investigators will perform a comprehensive audit of Metra's program of tests and inspections for its operating employees that will analyze testing records for 2013 and 2014; review training, qualification, and competency of testing officers; conduct testing sessions with Metra officers; conduct independent background reviews on Metra employees; and perform speed checks.

The FRA's assessment of Metra is similar to Operation Deep Dive, the recent safety assessment conducted after a series of accidents at MTA Metro-North Railroad. As a result, Metro-North was directed to address 25 specific recommendations covering eight safety critical concerns in an effort to mitigate risk and to begin a turnaround of the railroad's safety culture.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/9/2014