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Federal Railroad Administration Launches Investigation into Recent Metra Incidents

Inspectors to conduct 45-day focused safety assessment of Metra

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today announced the launch of a 45-day focused deep dive safety assessment of Chicago’s Metra in response to three incidents that have taken place in the last two weeks. The assessment will focus on Metra’s program of operational tests and inspections for all its operating crews, with special emphasis on training, qualification and testing of locomotive engineers.  This assessment is similar to Operation Deep Dive, the recent safety assessment conducted after a series of accidents on Metro-North Rail Road that serves Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.  As a result, Metro-North was directed to address twenty-five specific recommendations covering eight safety critical concerns in an effort to mitigate risk and to begin a turnaround of the railroad’s safety culture.

“Safety is our top priority, and by acting now, we can help prevent a serious accident where commuters could be hurt,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We’re taking immediate action to help Metra identify and remedy safety risks and to ensure the safety of all passengers.”

FRA investigators will focus on three recent incidents involving speeding and signal violations, which resulted in three Metra engineers losing their certifications. During the course of the investigation, FRA inspectors will:

  • Interview all affected employees
  • Review event recorder tapes and video recordings
  • Review operations testing records
  • Review radio tapes
  • Review Metra’s locomotive engineer qualifications certification program

Investigators will also perform a comprehensive audit of Metra’s program of tests and inspections for its operating employees that will:

  • Analyze testing records for 2013 and 2014
  • Review training, qualification, and competency of testing officers
  • Conduct testing sessions with Metra officers
  • Conduct independent background reviews on Metra employees
  • Perform speed checks

“Rider safety must always be the top concern for our transit systems, and the FRA has proven itself a ready and willing partner in reinforcing that priority for Metra,” said U.S. Senator Richard Durbin. “I trust this assessment will help identify and eliminate the problems that caused recent speeding and signal violations and help Metra continue performing to the highest standards of safety.  In addition, I encourage Metra to remain committed to implementing Positive Train Control as soon as possible throughout the system, which can help prevent the most recent operator errors.  We must always work to ensure every passenger can enjoy the fullest peace of mind during their time on Metra.”

In addition, FRA personnel will meet with labor leaders and Metra employees to listen to their concerns regarding these recent events.

“Our focused deep dive safety assessment will help us better understand the facts that led to these recent events and provide us an opportunity to assess Metra’s testing, training, performance, and compliance programs and ensure the public’s confidence in Metra,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. “Railroad safety has significantly improved over the last decade, but we owe it to the public to always do better. Our ultimate goal is to drive continuous safety improvement.”

FRA’s strategy for continuous safety improvement is founded on three pillars: a rigorous oversight and inspection program based on strategic use of data; advancing proactive approaches for early identification and mitigation of risk; and capital investments and a robust research and development program.

Learn more about FRA and the next generation of railroad safety.

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Friday, June 6, 2014