Feb. 21--NEW HAVEN -- U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal pressured Metro-North on Thursday to take actions quickly to ensure safety and reliability of the commuter railroad.
With new Metro-North President Joseph Giulietti and Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Thomas Prendergast standing nearby, Blumenthal, D-Conn., said management needs to move more quickly even than it agreed to do in a meeting with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy earlier this week.
Speaking of commuters at a meeting in Stamford, Blumenthal said, "They have lost patience and so have I. There needs to be new leadership, a new culture, new accountability at Metro-North and the learning curve that (Giulietti) faces will not afford him a lot of time. I understand there will be a 100-day plan but the time for plans is over; the time for performance is now and that's the kind of mandate that I have expressed to him."
Giulietti, a New Haven-area native, started as president on Feb. 10 and said he was not ready to announce specific plans but that his staff is behind him and ready to make changes.
"My first mission has been and will continue to be safety, the safety of our passengers, the safety of our employees," Giulietti said. "The men and women of the organization have all shown their commitment. I want to emphasize the amount of support that has been shown from all the people that are working at our agency. When we had a snowstorm come in on Friday, everybody was there."
He also said he has the backing of Prendergast, "who has a background in rail and understands that it takes away such a tremendous amount of the learning curve when you're working for somebody that understands all the issues that are there."
Friday's snowstorm was the latest slip in Metro-North's performance, when not enough trains were rolling, in expectation that fewer commuters would leave their homes. Giulietti said he "had the opportunity to see what can happen" and was on the floor of Grand Central Terminal and in the dispatch office. "You've got my commitment that I was involved."
Metro-North is waiting for the National Transportation Safety Board to issue rules on safety measures that Blumenthal has repeatedly called for: inside- and outside-facing cameras, positive train control (expected to be deployed in December 2015) and an alert-system that signals if the engineer has stopped working.
"The next progress report ... I anticipate will be as early as next week on some of these measures ... and I'm hopeful that we will see results as soon as possible. ... I think accountability is lacking. There need to be changes in the people who run the railroad, and Joe Giulietti has a great opportunity but also an obligation to make management changes," Blumenthal said.
The railroad has faced a derailment that killed four, a track accident in which a foreman was struck and killed, a major power outage in the Bronx, N.Y., and a derailment that injured dozens. There have also been major inconveniences, such as a power outage that stopped all the trains, loaded with passengers, for two hours.
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