The National Transportation Safety Board has released a preliminary report on the Metro-North train crash and derailment in Bridgeport on May 17 and it says damage estimates are around $18 million. It also says a track inspection conducted two days before the crash revealed “inadequate supporting ballast” in the area of the derailment.
Seventy three passengers, two engineers and a conductor were injured when two Metro North trains collided at 6:01 p.m. on Friday, May 17.
An eastbound Metro-North train traveling from Grand Central Station in New York to New Haven derailed on track 4, near milepost 53.3, and was struck by a westbound Metro North train heading from New Haven toward Grand Central Station, according to NTSB.
The track on the New Haven line is visually inspected three times per week and an inspection done on May 15 found an “insulated rail joint with inadequate supporting ballast and indications of vertical movement of the track system under load at catenary No. 734 on track 4 near MP53.3,” according to the NTSB.
The preliminary indications are that the derailment happened in that location, near milepost 53.3.
Marjorie Anders, a Metro-North spokeswoman, said a ballast is the small stones that are placed and packed down to surround the train ties, or tracks. Every once in a while, they need to be tamped or repacked.
The MTA inspector who inspected the track on May 15 said, in his experience, it didn't pose a threat to the trains or tracks and just needed to be done with routine maintenance, Anders said.
Investigators took sections of rail to the NTSB materials laboratory in Washington, DC for further examination.
NTSB previously said inspection reports revealed that Metro-North personnel in April repaired a joint bar, used to join two sections of rail together, the month before the crash.
"It is very disappointing to hear from the NTSB that there had been an inspection just two days prior to the derailment of the train that turned up a problem with a bad joint with insufficient ballast," Jim Cameron, chairman of the CT Metro-North Commuter Council, said in a statement. "Of even greater concern is Metro-North's admission that they had identified that problem but did not think it was serious enough to either halt service or issue a "slow order" for trains running over the site of the bad rail."
The estimates that put the damage at $18 million are from Metro-North, according to the NTSB.