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Speeches

Opening Statement - Board Meeting: Special Investigation Report on Organizational factors in Metro-North Railroad Accidents
Christopher A. Hart
Washington, DC
11/19/2014

Good morning. Welcome to the Board room of the National Transportation Safety Board. I am Christopher Hart, and it is my privilege to serve as Acting Chairman of the NTSB. Joining me are my fellow Board Members: Member Robert Sumwalt, Member Mark Rosekind and Member Earl Weener.
 
Today, we meet in open session, as required by the Government in the Sunshine Act, to consider a Special Investigation Report on Organizational Factors in five Metro-North Railroad Accidents.
 
Taken together, these five accidents resulted in the deaths of four passengers and two Metro-North workers, in addition to 126 injuries, some very serious. On behalf of the NTSB, I would like to express our deepest condolences to those who lost loved ones and our best wishes for the fullest possible recovery to those who suffered injuries.
 
Joining us today from Metro-North Railroad are President Joseph Giulietti and Chief Safety Officer Anne Kirsch. And I welcome all those, whether in this room or watching via webcast, who were injured or who lost loved ones in these accidents.
 
We cannot change what happened, but in finding common organizational factors underlying these accidents, we hope to identify ways to bolster safety, not only at Metro-North, but in passenger railroads nationwide.
 
Last month, the NTSB released investigative reports on these five accidents. In a moment, our Director of Railroad, Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Investigations will offer an overview of our investigative activities in relation to them.
 
In the course of investigating these five accidents, we found recurring organizational factors. To its credit, Metro-North and its parent organization, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or MTA, have made changes to address some of these factors.
 
In developing this Special Investigation Report, we not only examined the organizational factors at Metro-North and the MTA that allowed the safety gaps to exist. We also looked at organizational factors with their roots in the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
 
In too many cases, the FRA simply has not acted on NTSB recommendations to close known safety gaps. By contrast, Metro-North, the railroad on which the accidents occurred, has begun to respond to NTSB recommendations. In so doing, it has moved beyond FRA regulations in order to enhance safety. This raises a question: What is happening in other passenger railroads?
 
Do FRA regulations, inspection, and oversight allow safety gaps to develop in railroads elsewhere? Will we see similar accidents, with similar underlying organizational factors, in those other railroads in the future?
 
Metro-North and the MTA have much work yet to do on this specific railroad and others in the MTA system. We hope that today's report identifies opportunities for ongoing improvement in their safety cultures.
 
The FRA has much work to do as well. Railroad safety across the country depends on the FRA turning decisively to the task.
 
Now I will turn to Deputy Managing Director Steve Klejst.
 
Deputy Managing Director Klejst.