16:07 (Schumer): "the other accidents...in the Bronx, Westchester..."
None of the 5 accidents investigated by NTSB occurred in Westchester.
16:25(Schumer): "a total lack of emphasis on safety..." "ignoring exting NTSB recommendations..."
17:10(Schumer): "the emphasis was on on-time, on-time, on-time without regard to safety"
Let's first take the assertion about MNR ignoring existing NTSB recommendations. Prior to the fatal accident of December 1, 2013, NTSB had issued only a single recommendation regarding three prior accidents, recommendation R-13-17. This recommendation urged MNR to adopt a secondary system, such as shunting, for the protection of roadway workers. MNR agreed to and complied with this recommendation. The railroad deployed an additional system for roadway worker protection, one with much greater utility and reliability than shunting.
Now regarding a so-called "total lack of safety," the Senator is merely displaying his unfamiliarity with the millions, literally, of daily actions, decisions, and functions that make for safe railroading. Despite the obvious and inexcusable breakdowns in MNR's record of safe train operations, the breakdowns do not amount to a "total lack of safety."
Were equipment inspections being performed throughout this period? Yes. Are such inspections part of safe train operations and safety culture? Yes.
Were signal inspections being performed throughout this period? Yes. Are such inspections part of safe train operations? Yes, they are, literally, a vital part.
Were switch obstruction tests being performed during this period? Yes. Are such inspections required for safe train operations? Yes.
Were train and engine crews performing the proper brake tests prior to operating trains? Yes. Are such brake tests essential to safe train operations? Yes.
Were trains with train control apparatus failures operated safely to a point where passengers could be discharged and the equipment removed from service for repair? Yes. Are such arrangements necessary for safe train operations? Yes.
Were blue lights being applied when rolling stock was being inspected? Yes. Is the application of such devices part of safe train operations? Yes.
I could go on and on, but you get the point even if the Senator doesn't-- and the point is not only that there was no complete disregard for safety but, more importantly that accidents don't require a complete and total disregard for safety to occur.
Momentary, or repeated, or accumulated, or individual, or convergent mistakes, errors, failures are all that is required for an accident to occur.
If MNR had truly been operating with a total lack of emphasis on safety, of by and for on-time performance without regard for safety, there would have been far more than five accidents in ten months. There would have been more than five accidents in five minutes-- but only five minutes as the railroad would have ground itself to a halt.
As unacceptable as these incidents were, there is no reason to distort the actual circumstances, and the actual failures behind the accidents, just as there is no reason to identify as locations of accidents locations where no accidents occurred.
17:25(Schumer) The reports have an almost Alice in Wonderland like quality...students in training operating trains without supervision...allowing an engineer who had sleep apnea to drive...
None of the five accidents involved a student operating a train without supervision. Petty detail? The difference between safe train operations and unsafe train operations is exactly that-- attention to detail.
Metro-North did not "allow" an engineer with sleep apnea to operate train 8808. To allow means to sanction, to permit. Permission means to have the knowledge beforehand. No such knowledge was provided to the railroad by the locomotive engineer.
You might as well argue that the state of New York is responsible for all DWI accidents because the state provides driver's licenses while alcohol remains available for legal purchase.
Operating a safe railroad is not at all like campaigning for elected office. You have to know what you are talking about. You have to say exactly what you mean. You have to act on what you say. Those are the petty details of railroad management.
20:10(Schumer): "We shouldn't pick and choose which transit lines should implement each recommendation. Instead when we take action it should be for the entire MTA system as well as for Amtrak and other commuter and passenger rail services."
Really? I for one am looking forward to the mandatory installation of PTC on the New York City Subway System, on Bergen Light Rail, on the Newark Subway. I, for one, can't wait to see roadway worker protections as outlined in Subpart C, 214 applied to subways. I, and there's got to be more than me, look forward to the registration and certification of NYCTA motormen and conductors under FRA regs 240 and 242. I for one can't wait to see the supervisors of bus lines and intra-city transport modes out there conducting "banner testing" under the FRA guidelines.
Before we conclude this section of our analysis, let's take a look at the frequent and numerous complaints from the NTSB and the Senators about the number of "open recommendations" NTSB has provided to FRA and railroads over the years. According to the acting chairman of NTSB and the Senators more than 60 such recommendations remain open with one or some open for years. Let's look at NTSB's own "ten most wanted list" of safety improvements, and lets look into its own annual report.
First, of the top ten most wanted safety improvements, only one applies directly to FRA and the railroads-- PTC, and Congress has already mandated the implementation of PTC. Will railroads meet the deadline? I don't know. Nevertheless deployment of the system is no longer up to FRA.
NTSB's 2013 annual report to Congress lists 143 recommendations issued to all transportation modes for the year. During 2013, 183 existing recommendations were closed "acceptably," and 73 were closed "unacceptably." NTSB notes with pride that for the period 2009-2013, 75 percent of its recommendations have been successfully implemented.
For the aviation sector, NTSB issued 27 recommendations, closed 83 "acceptably" and closed 54 "unacceptably."
For the railroad industry, in 2013, NTSB issued 45 recommendations, closed 24 "acceptably" and closed only 2 "unacceptably."
In 2012, NTSB issued 72 new recommendations to the aviation industry; closed 69 acceptably; closed 37 unacceptably.
Meanwhile in that same year, NTSB issued 45 recommendations to the rail industry and its regulator, closed 26 acceptably, and only 3 were classified as closed "unacceptably."
So does this read to you like the rail industry and its regulator have been "out to lunch" when it comes to safety? Does this sound like a regulator, and an industry trying to cut corners, break the law?
Next up: the Senator, or Senators if I feel particularly energetic, from Connecticut.
October 31, 2014
Still with us, Brett?