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Sunday’s Metro-North train derailment — the third on the railroad’s tracks this year and the fifth involving a Metropolitan Transportation Authority train — is raising concerns about MTA rail safety.

The train was carrying about 150 people when it ran off the rails while rounding a bend where the Harlem and Hudson rivers meet. The lead car landed inches from the water.  The deadly derailment killed four and injured 60 others; dozens remain hospitalized.  It was the worst on an MTA train since a train derailed at Union Square in 1991 that killed five people and injured more than 200.  Preliminary analysis by the NTSB found that the train was traveling at 82 mph, nearly three times faster than the speed limit for the curved section of track where it crashed.  According to investigators, the train’s brakes were working properly, but were applied just seconds before it derailed.

Many believe the accident could have been prevented through technology called positive-train control.  Positive train control (PTC) is aimed at preventing human error, the cause of about 40 percent of train accidents. It relies on sensors inside the locomotive and uses satellite positioning to track a train’s movement.  The computer can warn a train’s crew if the train is going too fast. It can stop trains from colliding with each other, from switching onto the wrong track or from going the wrong way.  It can also prevent high-speed derailment by automatically applying the brakes when a train is going too fast.

The technology is supposed to be in for most of the country’s passenger and freight rail network by the end of 2015, but the Government Accountability Office found that most railroads do not expect to meet the deadline. Some of the industry has been arguing that the project is unaffordable and still needs more time to be refined. They are arguing for an extension to 2018.

In January 2012, I wrote “Railroads Pushing to Repeal Safety Laws” in which I stated that although the railroads concede that PTC increases safety, officials say that it only saves four or five lives a year; not enough to justify the cost of compliance under the Act. I asked my readers then, “Am I the only one that finds that appalling? How many deaths, exactly, does it take for strong safety action?”  Now we have four and several others still in critical condition.  Will these latest fatalities make it more difficult for railroads to fight the 2015 deadline?

Mark Bello has thirty-six years experience as a trial lawyer and fourteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Member of Public Justice, Public Citizen, the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.


  1. Gravatar for Richard Coniglione
    Richard Coniglione

    Awfully confusing writing for a law publication. In the second paragraph, if you follow it properly, the statement is that dozens remain hospitalized from the 1991 crash, which is obviously not what was meant.

  2. Richard: Thanks for the comment. We have moved the offending phrase to its proper place. Other than the "dozens hospitalized" phrase being inserted at the back of the paragraph rather than the front, I don't see how anyone could be "confused" about what this article was referencing.

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