NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Metro-North, the nation's second-largest commuter railroad, has been fined $552,000 over the past decade for safety violations and defects, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Friday.
The Connecticut Democrat announced the fines for 139 violations since 2004 in his latest bid to draw attention to what he describes as a need to restore safety and reliability to the railroad.
Defects and violations are commonly found during inspections and audits, a spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration said, and Metro-North said it has been implementing significant measures to improve safety. The railroad had two derailments last year, one in New York City that left four passengers dead and one in Bridgeport that injured dozens. It carried more than 83.4 million riders between New York City and its suburbs last year.
"While not every reported defect is a serious safety threat, the magnitude of violations is deeply troubling," Blumenthal said. "The pertinence and practical importance of these defects is staggeringly clear."
The derailments are under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Metro-North has made tremendous strides in improving its safety culture, spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said. The railroad did a thorough inspection of its tracks and other infrastructure, tightened safeguards on when tracks are put back into service and is implementing other improvements such as anonymous reporting of near-accidents, she said.
"Metro-North Railroad is working every day with the Federal Railroad Administration and National Transportation Safety Board to correct the safety issues raised by the recent tragic accidents and the subsequent federal review and recommendations," Anders said. "We share Senator Blumenthal's objective, which is ensuring the safety of our customers, employees and the public at large."
While Metro-North was fined $552,000, the railroad ultimately paid about $239,000 after settlement negotiations required by federal law, according to figures provided by Blumenthal.
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