Thousands of Metro-North riders will see their commutes officially grow longer this spring when schedules are changed to reflect slower speeds imposed after last year's derailment, the agency president said Wednesday.
New signs and automatic braking procedures were put in place within weeks after the Dec. 1 derailment, which killed four people and wounded dozens.
Riders have seen delays since then, but the official schedules had not been updated. Under the new schedules, for example, a 44-minute trip to Grand Central will now show as being 51 minutes.
“It will add some time,” said Joseph Giuletti.
The train in last year's deadly derailment was found to have been going 82 mph on a curve where the speed limit was 30. New signs and automatic braking procedures should prevent speeding in the future, but also have a ripple effect of slower speeds even outside sections of track where the speed limit is restricted.
“Every one of these safety add-ons is going to actually increase times, because it’s going to take away the ability to go running all the way to the 20 mph area just in time to put your brakes on through that area,” said Giuletti.
The new executive, who ran the Miami area’s Tri-Rail system for the past 15 years, grew up in Connecticut and worked at Metro-North for 15 years before that.
He told NBC 4 New York the railroad might have sacrificed something as it built a national reputation for stellar on-time performance.
“There’s been some speculation that safety maybe wasn’t our top priority,” he said. “And it has to be – and always will be.”
Many riders say if their trips get longer, that’s tolerable as long as it matches the schedule. In recent weeks there have been daily announcements about late trains instead.
“If that’s what it has to be, it’s understandable,” said Jane Beller, a daily rider from Croton-Harmon. “You don’t want anything like that to happen again, that was pretty awful.”