A Connecticut newspaper reports that federal inspectors found more than 7,100 defects and deficiencies in the Metro-North Railroad over the last decade, but records show regulators launched an investigation only after two high-profile accidents last year.
In an open records request by Hearst Connecticut Media, federal inspection reports between 2003 and 2013 show inspectors last year found broken joint bars and loose or missing rail braces that hold tracks to the ties in Bridgeport, Norwalk, New Haven and Stamford in Connecticut. They found numerous instances of passenger emergency equipment not being in place in New Haven and Stamford.
Records show Metro-North was faulted in 2013 for not revoking an engineer’s certification as required under federal law.
Marjorie Anders, a Metro-North spokeswoman, said the commuter railroad generally does better during federal inspections than most railroads.
“Every time a defect is cited, we fix them,” she said.
Kevin Thompson, a spokesman at the Federal Railroad Administration, said inspections during 2013 uncovered five times as many issues per 100 miles of track as similar inspections of other commuter railroads.
“While that is a significant concern for us, it doesn’t mean the railroad is unsafe to ride,” he said.
Metro-North has reduced train speed when necessary, responding to the “exceptions and defects” identified in federal inspections, Thompson said.
The railroad has faced strong criticism from commuters and elected officials over numerous problems last year, including two derailments — one in the Bronx, N.Y., that left four passengers dead, and a derailment in Bridgeport in May that injured dozens of people.
Thompson said Metro-North inspections were increased after the Bridgeport derailment.
“Certainly, that would turn our attention to more inspections on that property,” he said.
A power outage in September also forced Metro-North to reduce service for nearly two weeks, infuriating passengers and leading many to take to their cars on crowded Connecticut highways to avoid Metro-North.
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