- Associated Press - Friday, May 16, 2014

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - The Metro-North Railroad’s plan to improve commuter safety includes new protections to ensure engineers are not speeding or sleeping on the job.

The railroad issued its action plan Thursday, two days before the anniversary of an accident in Bridgeport in which dozens of passengers were injured when a train derailed and struck another. Four people were killed in December in a derailment in the Bronx, New York, in which a train engineer apparently fell asleep.

Those accidents led to a federal investigation and a finding by the Federal Railroad Administration that Metro-North was more interested in on-time performance than safety. In March, the FRA recommended 27 actions the railroad needed to take to ensure safety, and gave it 60 days to come up with the action plan.

Railroad President Joseph Giulietti, in releasing that report, said 14 of those recommendations already have been implemented.

The plan includes new speed restrictions, the installation of a system designed to halt trains before they crash and the outfitting of trains with “alerter” systems, which require engineers to respond to ensure they have not fallen asleep.

The railroad said it also is conducting about 500 audits a month to ensure engineers are not speeding.

“We are currently reorganizing our Safety Department so that its sole focus is safety, and we are improving employee training programs,” Giulietti wrote.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, called the plan an important first step.

“I remain concerned that deadlines for serious infrastructure and technology improvements remain amorphous, including adoption of a close-call reporting system, installation of alerters and cameras and positive train control systems,” he said.

State Sen. Toni Boucher of Wilton, the ranking Republican on the Legislature’s Transportation Committee, told the Connecticut Post the report needs to be followed by more action.

“It’s a whole lot of promises and it’s good they are working on it,” she said. “But we will have to see the changes to see if it works out. It’s what they get done, not what they put out in press releases.”