Train service set to resume after deadly crash
Rail service at a New Jersey transit station damaged after a train crash last week that killed a woman on the platform and injured more than 100 will resume Monday as officials continue to investigate why the train was traveling twice the speed limit before it hit the station.
Eight of the 17 tracks at Hoboken Terminal will reopen Monday at the busy station where commuters connect with other trains and with ferries heading into New York City, New Jersey Transit announced Friday.
With the resumption of service, a new rule will require that the conductor join the engineer whenever a train pulls into the terminal, NJ Transit spokeswoman Jennifer Nelson said. That means a second set of eyes will be watching as a train enters the final phase of its trip at stations where there are platforms at the end of the rails.
In the Sept. 29 crash, the engineer was alone at the time. He has told federal investigators he has no memory of the crash.
Some rail safety experts caution that having a second person in a cab isn’t automatically safer, since crew members can sometimes distract each other. In 1996 outside Washington, D.C., a commuter train engineer was thought to have been distracted by a conversation with a crew member, causing a crash with an Amtrak train that killed 11 people.
It took investigators until Tuesday to make the New Jersey crash site safe enough to be able to remove an event recorder from the lead car that had smashed into and over a bumper at the end of the line. The damaged train that took out part of a canopy wasn’t removed until Thursday, a week after the crash.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the train sped up and was going twice the 10 mph speed limit just before it slammed into a bumping post at the end of the rail line, went airborne and hurtled into the station’s waiting area Sept. 29.
The train was traveling at 8 mph and the throttle was in the idle position less than a minute before the crash. About 38 seconds before the crash, the throttle was increased and reached a maximum of about 21 mph, the NTSB said. The throttle went back to idle and the engineer hit the emergency brake less than a second before the crash, investigators said.
NJ Transit trains have an in-cab system designed to alert engineers with a loud alarm and stop locomotives when they go over 20 mph, according to an NJ Transit engineer who wasn’t authorized to discuss the accident and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The NJ Transit engineer said the throttles have eight slots, putting the fourth spot at about half power. The engineer said the throttle should be set to idle, or the first and slowest speed spot, when entering Hoboken Terminal. The tracks into the station run slightly downhill, so there would be no need to push the throttle any higher, the engineer said.
An NTSB spokesman said he didn’t know if the alert system went off. He said it’s being looked at as part of the investigation.
A Thursday report contained no analysis of the data retrieved and no explanation for why the train increased speed. NTSB technical experts and the parties to the investigation are scheduled to meet in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to continue reviewing the data and video from the train.
A New Jersey Transit employee rides on a train as it is moved out of the Hoboken Terminal on Thursday in Hoboken, N.J., a week after the train crashed into the station, killing one person and injuring more than 100 people.