Train ser­vice set to re­sume after deadly crash

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - STATE NEWS - As­so­ci­ated Press writer Michael R. Sisak in Philadel­phia con­trib­uted to this re­port. By David Porter

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.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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.

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