Metro-North Could See Some Changes in Connecticut

Although the Metro-North New Haven Line remains unaffected by yesterday's deadly derailment in the Bronx, some commuters say the crash has put them on edge, and officials say the railroad here in Connecticut could be seeing some changes.

Mitchell Fuchs of the Connecticut Commuter Rail Council said the federal government is mandating a system upgrade called positive traction control that would help to prevent trains from reaching dangerous speeds and losing control.

It comes in the wake of the derailment that killed four and injured more than 60 others. NTSB officials said the train reached speeds of more than 80 mph in an area with a 30-mph speed limit.

The system upgrade is scheduled to be completed by 2015 but hasn't started yet and will likely be delayed. Fuchs called it an "expensive proposition."

"There are so many needs and we are so underfunded, it's difficult to get to that point," Fuchs said.

But the upgrade might help to calm the nerves of wary commuters, who are rattled by the derailment and hopeful that any problems will be addressed and amended.

“You have to have some faith that inspections are taking place as needed and checks and balances are being done,” said Lefland.

Transportation expert Jim Cameron said it's important to consider all possible outcomes of those inspections and advised Metro-North passengers to be cautious if an investigation finds that faulty equipment caused the derailment.

Cameron said in an email, "Look at the pictures of the wreckage and you will notice that the first two cars in the derailment have red stripes down their side. Those cars were bought and paid for by the state of Connecticut and are just as likely to be running right now on the Danbury branch or the Waterbury branch. Are they safe?"

Passengers said open lines of communication and an aggressive approach to inspections would help to answer that question and reassure rattled commuters.

“I hope that they have enough budget to fix all problems and maintain everything," said Matthew Blew of Mystic. "The public doesn't get a look into how often they are doing all that stuff... If they would release that information, it may make people feel a little better."

The accident didn't interrupt service on the New Haven Line but weighed heavily on people's minds.

“Tragic what happened to those folks, and I think it makes everyone think twice about getting on the train,” said Eileen Lefland of North Haven.

But commuters said nonetheless, the accident wouldn't keep them from boarding the train, a critical mode of transportation for many traveling to and from Connecticut.

“It makes you a little leery about traveling, but things happen, so I'm still going to be riding the trains,” said Byron Dirkson, who was traveling home to Pennsylvania.

The derailment is the latest in a series of recent problems with the railroad. After the Bridgeport train derailment in May, Metro-North said it was evaluating its inspection process.

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