[Marxism] A repeat of the Spanish train wreck

Louis Proyect 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

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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