[Marxism] A repeat of the Spanish train wreck
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Dec 2 18:31:56 MST 2013
NY Times December 2, 2013
Metro-North Train Sped at 82 M.P.H. in 30 M.P.H. Zone Before Crash
By MARC SANTORA and MATT FLEGENHEIMER
The Metro-North Railroad train that derailed on Sunday, killing four
people and injuring dozens more, was traveling at roughly 82 miles per
hour just before it veered off the tracks, federal investigators said on
Monday, nearly three times the allowable 30 m.p.h. speed through a
curving stretch of track.
Earl Weener, a board member with the National Transportation Safety
Board, said that it remained unclear if the speed was the result of
human error or faulty equipment. But the train’s data recorders, which
revealed the speed, also indicated that the pressure on the throttle did
not drop to zero until six seconds before the derailment.
The extraordinary speed — even a relative straightaway north of the
crash site has a maximum allowable speed of 70 miles per hour — shed new
light on the deadliest New York City train derailment in more than two
The safety board said that interviews with the engineer, identified as
William Rockefeller, began on Monday but had not been completed. Drug
and alcohol tests had been conducted, though Mr. Weener said the results
were not yet available. Mr. Rockefeller’s cellphone has also been
recovered, Mr. Weener said.
In a series of television appearances earlier on Monday, Gov. Andrew M.
Cuomo said that it appeared that the train was traveling too fast as it
hit a curve in the tracks.
“I think it is going to be speed-related,” Mr. Cuomo said on the “Today”
show. “It was a tricky turn on the system, but it is a turn that has
been there for decades.”
The governor’s comments came as workers used huge cranes to right the
derailed passenger cars early Monday, clearing the wreckage and working
to restore service for thousands of commuters.
Mr. Rockefeller was released from the hospital late Sunday.
A Metropolitan Transportation Authority official said the engineer told
emergency medical workers that when he realized it was heading into the
curve too quickly, he “dumped the brakes,” an emergency maneuver, and
though the train slowed somewhat, it then derailed.
A key question, the authorities said, would be not only whether the
brakes were applied — and when — but also why the train was traveling so
fast as to require an emergency maneuver.
Mr. Cuomo said there were three possible causes for the accident: the
condition of the tracks, an equipment failure or human error.
On Sunday, a longtime engineer on the Hudson line, who requested
anonymity because he did not want to be seen as involving himself in the
case of a colleague, said that despite the sharpness of the curve, the
stretch was “not an especially dangerous area” for experienced operators.
“It’s like driving your car,” he said. “When you’re coming up to a
curve, you slow down.”
Rail safety experts have wondered whether a system known as positive
train control — which Metro-North and other railroads must install by
2015, according to a federal mandate — might have mitigated the crash.
While it is unclear if the system could have prevented the episode
entirely, one feature of positive train control is its capacity to slow
trains as they go around bends like the one at Spuyten Duyvil.
Last month, the authority’s board approved a contract to begin
installing the new system.
Some 26,000 people had their Monday morning commute disrupted.
Metro-North’s Hudson line is running limited service between
Poughkeepsie and Yonkers, and is suspended entirely south of Yonkers.
Many riders put the delays in perspective.
When the 5:54 a.m. train from Poughkeepsie left the tracks on Sunday, it
was the first time in the history of the Metro-North Railroad that a
passenger has been killed in a crash.
When she first heard about the accident, Michelle Manning said her first
thought was about how she would get to work. Then she learned of the
“Four people killed, 11 critically injured, it’s awful,” she said at the
Yonkers train station. “It’s scary because I take that route every
single day. I’ve never been afraid to take Metro-North, so this is
Still, she had to get to work.
On Monday, she boarded the first shuttle bus to the 242nd Street station
on the No. 1 subway line around 5:15 a.m.
“It normally takes me 23 minutes to get to work,” Ms. Manning, 38, said.
“Today I’m budgeting three hours.”
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were broken
up into four teams, focusing on different areas, including one team that
was working to validate the information of the train’s data recorders,
which could provide key information about why the train may have been
Mr. Cuomo said that the accident was much worse up close than it
appeared from a distance.
“It was truly a horrific situation,” he said. “It looked like a child’s
train set that was just strewn about.”
Nate Schweber contributed reporting.
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