A Metro-North Railroad official has told federal regulators investigating a derailment and fatal accident in May that the commuter line is behind schedule on some of its maintenance.
Chief engineer Robert Puciloski said Wednesday at a National Transportation Safety Board hearing in Washington, D.C. that Metro-North is "behind in several areas" of maintenance for resurfacing and replacing railroad ties.
He said he does not know how Metro-North fell behind but it's working to catch up. He also said Metro-North has made it a top priority to correct poor drainage areas.
A train derailed in Bridgeport on May 17 and was struck by another train. The collision injured 73 passengers, two engineers and a conductor.
The track in question was visually inspected two days before the derailment but was not deemed a problem. Metro-North officials said Wednesday that they've eliminated all compromised joints across the system.
"Clearly they've staffed up," said Puciolski. "There are more welding crews. There are more inspections."
Eleven days after the derailment, on May 28, a track foreman, Robert Luden, was struck and killed by a train in West Haven.
The hearing, scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday in Washington, was set to include talks on track maintenance and inspection, passenger car safety standards, protecting workers and safety changes since the accidents.
Scheduled speakers include representatives of Metro-North, government officials and labor union leaders.
"I think Connecticut riders are very safe," said MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg, at Wednesday's hearing. "I think they've made a lot of changes in the wake of this crash."
Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he and other legislators will be keeping a close eye on the railroad to make sure commuter safety remains top priority.
"We're going to be watching this railroad like a hawk," Blumenthal said on Wednesday.
The NTSB has said the determination of a probable cause for each of the accidents will be released when the investigations are complete.