Washington, DC – After a Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) train derailed in an Amtrak tunnel under the East River earlier this week and caused major commuter delays, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) today urged Federal Railroad Administrator (FRA) Joseph Szabo, Federal Transit Administrator (FTA) Peter Rogoff, and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairwoman Deborah Hersman to conduct a thorough and comprehensive investigation into the recent train derailments run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) on the LIRR, Metro-North Railroad, and New York City subway system. Amtrak, which performed East River tunnel repairs where the train went off the track on Monday, reported that a track issue problem likely caused the derailment. The derailment is the LIRR’s second in the last three months and the fourth of an MTA train. Senator Gillibrand called for a wide probe to examine potential systemic deficiencies that could help prevent these incidents from happening in the future.
Senator Gillibrand wrote in a letter to FRA Administrator Szabo, FTA Administrator Rogoff, and NTSB Chairwoman Hersman: “Due to the alarming rate of derailments in a short period of time, I strongly urge you to ensure that a thorough and comprehensive investigation is undertaken into the recent derailments to determine the root cause of these incidents and to address any underlying systemic deficiencies that could lead to future derailments.”
In late May, a No. 1 subway train derailed as it headed into a tunnel near 125th Street in Harlem. On May 17th, a Metro-North railroad derailment in Connecticut injured more than 70 people. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, a track inspection two days before the derailment found a defective piece of track. In March, a LIRR train derailed near Forest Hills, Queens.
Senator Gillibrand noted the troubling rate of train derailments and urged the three federal agencies to launch a thorough, expedited and transparent investigation into the safety of the rail system in the New York Metropolitan area. Under the Department of Transportation, the FRA is an agency that investigates train derailments and rail safety across the United States, while the FTA provides technical and financial assistance to public transit systems, including subway systems. The NTSB is an independent federal agency that investigates transportation accidents and incidents.
Full text of Senator Gillibrand’s letter is below:
Dear Administrator Szabo, Administrator Rogoff, and Chairwoman Hersman,
I am writing out of deep concern regarding the recent derailments experienced by commuter and subway trains operated by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) on the Long Island Railroad, Metro-North Railroad, and New York City Subway. Due to the alarming rate of derailments in a short period of time, I strongly urge you to ensure that a thorough and comprehensive investigation is undertaken into the recent derailments to determine the root cause of these incidents and to address any underlying systemic deficiencies that could lead to future derailments.
The recent derailment of a Long Island Railroad train in the East River Tunnel, which is owned and maintained by Amtrak, during the June 17th evening rush hour, brings the number of MTA derailments to four in the last three months. This derailment follows previous derailments of a Long Island Railroad train in Forest Hills, Queens, on March 18th, a Metro-North train in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on May 17th, and a New York City Subway train in Manhattan on May 29th.
With an average ridership of over 8.5 million people daily, operating 8,778 train and subway cars over 2,047 miles of track, the MTA is our nation’s largest transportation network, and public transit is a major driver of New York’s economy. The millions of New Yorkers who rely on the MTA everyday deserve to know that the federal government is doing everything that we can to ensure that our rail infrastructure is held to the highest safety standard. For those reasons, it is of vital importance that the troubling rate of MTA derailments is comprehensively investigated and that any necessary additional investigations on the safety of the rail system in the New York Metropolitan area are carried out in an expeditious and transparent manner.