The engineer, William Rockefeller, 46, told authorities he became
dazed and lost focus shortly before the crash as the train took a
curve at three times the speed limit, investigators said.
The source said Metro-North commuter railroad trains such as the one
on the ill-fated Poughkeepsie-New York City run are equipped with
two safety systems to alert fatigued or distracted engineers.
In one system, every 25 seconds the train is in motion, an alert
sounds unless the engineer makes at least a minor movement of the
throttle or controller, indicating he or she is alert. If the
engineer is idle, the system soon automatically starts applying the
On the train that derailed on the curve entering Spuyten Duyvil
station in the Bronx, the diesel locomotive was equipped with the
driver alert system, the source said.
But the driver was running the train from a "control cab" at the
front of the first passenger carriage, not from the locomotive
pushing seven carriages from the rear, and this control cab did not
have the alerting system, the source added.
"The locomotive had an alerter. The (control) cab didn't," the
source said, speaking on condition of anonymity during an ongoing
Few if any Metro-North trains set up in similar push-pull
configurations — where the locomotive pulls the train one way, then
pushes it on the return trip — are equipped with the driver alert
system at both ends, the source said.
A former supervisor of the driver at Metro-North confirmed the
source's description, although he was unable to say how the derailed
train was equipped.
"I know the locomotive end would have had to have this touch system,
but I don't know the model of the car so I can't say for sure
whether or not it was equipped with the system," Michael McLendon, a
recently retired assistant director of Metro-North's shops and
facilities team, told Reuters.
The Federal Railway Administration and National Transportation
Safety Board declined to comment on the alert systems on the
derailed train, saying such information is part of the ongoing
Metro-North said late on Wednesday that full service would resume on
Thursday morning in the area of the derailment. It said workers have
been rebuilding the tracks, although the most damaged part was still
Partial service resumed earlier in the week.
[to top of second column]
POSITIVE TRAIN CONTROL
A second automatic control system, designed to apply the brakes if
the train passed a red signal or faced a possible collision, was
also installed on the derailed train but was not key to the
investigation, as those conditions did not apply.
National Transportation Safety Board officials have also said that a
much more advanced safety system called Positive Train Control
(PTC), which Congress has ordered railroads to install on heavily
trafficked passenger and freight lines by December 2015, might have
prevented the crash.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it began work to
install PTC on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad in
2009, but the 2015 deadline will be difficult for the MTA as well as
for other commuter railroads to meet.
"Much of the technology is still under development and is untested
and unproven for commuter railroads the size and complexity of
Metro-North and LIRR, and all of the radio spectrum necessary to
operate PTC has not been made available," the MTA said in a
statement after the crash.
Last March, Metro-North won a large contract with a consortium led
by the German equipment supplier Siemens and the Canadian company
Bombardier to upgrade the train control systems to Positive Train
Control standard on both the Metro-North commuter railroad, which
serves northern New York suburbs and Connecticut towns, and the Long
Industry and government officials acknowledged that a variety of
problems, including the need for further technological development,
will make it impossible for the industry to meet the deadline.
In the case of Metro-North alone, said a source familiar with the
railroad's operations, the target date for completing installation
of PTC will be years after December 2015.
"People who have (issued) the mandate have no clue," the source
According to a report issued in August 2012 by the Federal Railroad
Administration, only two U.S. railroad lines — the Northeast
Corridor where high-speed Acela trains operate and a line in
Michigan where trains can go up to 110 mph — are equipped with full
PTC equipment so far.
(Additional reporting by Chris Francescani; editing by Gunna