Metro-North Student Controller, Supervisor Suspended After Fatal May Accident

The two were suspended May 28 after a track foreman was fatally struck by a train

A Metro-North student traffic controller and his supervisor were suspended without pay after a track foreman was fatally struck by a train last month, a railroad spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The suspensions occurred the day of the accident and are pending the outcome of a National Transportation Safety Board investigation, said Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders. The workers will then be subject to an internal disciplinary hearing according to the terms of their collective bargaining agreement, she said.

The NTSB, which is still investigating the May 28 accident, urged the railroad Monday to provide backup protection for track maintenance crews who now depend on train dispatchers.

Robert Luden, 52, was hit by a train in West Haven. The NTSB said Luden, of East Haven, had requested the track section be taken out of service for maintenance. That was done, but the NTSB said that before the work was finished the section was placed back into service by a student traffic controller who didn't have the required approval of a qualified controller or the foreman.

The NTSB said Metro-North, which operates between New York City and Connecticut, had already tightened its procedures after another rail traffic controller mistakenly placed a track section back into service May 4. The board recommended use of a device known as a shunt, which work crews can attach to rails in a work zone to alert controllers and approaching trains.

"Metro-North can take immediate action to ensure the safety of work crews on their tracks," NTSB Chair Deborah A.P. Hersman said. "Shunting tracks is simple, feasible and readily available."

Anders said the railroad has received the recommendation and "will implement safety improvements as quickly as possible."

Anders said that since the fatal accident Metro-North has required approval by the chief rail traffic controller to remove a track block. She said Metro-North is developing new technology to require mechanical input from the track worker to start and end blocks.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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