TRANSIT: New York MTA investigating cause of Bronx train derailment

Agency looking into positive train control technology to prevent future crashes

December 02, 2013

Authorities with New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) have begun investigating possible causes of the train derailment Sunday near the Bronx that killed four and injured at least 60. The speed of the train at the time of the accident is on the main elements investigators are focusing on.


According to early reports, as the train approached a sharp curve near the Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx, the train operator radioed that he was “dumping the brakes”—or slamming on the brakes on the wheels of all cars at once—to slow his speed going into the curve. MTA officials say that dumping the brakes is an emergency maneuver only used as a last resort, when a collision with a vehicle or another train is imminent.


Metro-North Railroad, the operator of the train in question, currently employs a push-pull model to operate its trains: In some cases the train is pulled by the locomotive at the front, while in others the locomotive pushes from the back.


Safety experts have previously expressed concerns, however, about the extra forces generated during a push. For that reason, Metro-North is looking into positive train control, which uses detector systems to slow down trains well before a curve.  

Sunday’s accident was the first in Metro-North’s history that resulted in passenger deaths.