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General Aviation Safety
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) launched investigative teams to two very similar accidents within 13 weeks of one another. In both accidents, the engineers failed to stop their trains before reaching the end of a terminating track at a station. The September 29, 2016, accident on the New Jersey Transit commuter railroad at Hoboken, New Jersey, killed one person, injured 100, and resulted in major damage to the passenger station. The January 4, 2017, accident on the Long Island Rail Road (a subsidiary of Metropolitan Transportation Authority) at the Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, New York, injured 108 people. As the NTSB investigations progressed, it became apparent that these accidents had almost identical probable causes and safety issues. The NTSB also realized that these safety issues were not unique to these two properties, but exist throughout the United States at many intercity passenger and commuter passenger train terminals. The NTSB is issuing two new safety recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration and two new safety recommendations to New Jersey Transit and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. In addition, the NTSB is reiterating two safety recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration.
TO THE FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION: Require intercity passenger and commuter railroads to implement technology to stop a train before reaching the end of tracks.
Original recommendation transmittal letter:
Open - Unacceptable Response
Hoboken, NJ, United States
PRELIMINARY REPORT: RAILROAD DCA16MR011
Railroad Accident Brief: New Jersey Transit Train Strikes Wall in Hoboken Terminal
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status:
FRA (Open - Unacceptable Response)
Safety Recommendation History
As you noted in your June 28, 2018, letter, terminal accidents are common and most are minor; however, the potential is always present that one will be catastrophic, as in the case of both the Hoboken and Brooklyn accidents. Although you are researching technology to monitor, control, and mitigate train movements when approaching ends of tracks, we are disappointed that you have no plans to complete the recommended mandate, and we urge you to reconsider your position on this recommendation. Pending such action, Safety Recommendation R 18 1 is classified OPEN--UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.
-From Ronald L. Batory, Administrator: FRA is exploring the use of technology in conjunction with other functional requirements for monitoring, controlling, and mitigating train movements approaching ends of tracks, especially in areas with occupied space beyond the end of tracks (such as pedestrian walkways or roads). FRA plans to reach out to the governing industry associations to provide stakeholder input and expertise to help FRA determine how to address Safety Recommendation R-18-01. As part of the agency's response to this Safety Recommendation, FRA is considering: • Available technology and the practical requirements involving train movements on terminus tracks; • Technological advancements made with energy-absorbing bumping posts and improved design standards; and, • Recommended industry practices and, if lacking, determination of potential needs for issuing industry guidance in this area. Under current regulations, many passenger terminals are exempt from positive train control (PTC) requirements. Given the frequency of train movements, accidents in terminals are relatively rare and most of these accidents have only minor consequences. FRA also recognizes that imposing PTC or other such technologies in terminals could reduce train capacity by slowing trains below the speed at which they had previously been safely operated by engineers. FRA does not anticipate undertaking a rulemaking on this issue to impose a technology given the multi-faceted means by which the risks may be addressed and the limited expected benefits of such a rulemaking compared to its costs (See Executive Orders 12866 and 13563). Instead, FRA recommends the aforementioned approach as an alternative to requiring an explicit technology through regulation. Therefore, FRA respectfully requests NTSB classify Safety Recommendation R-18-01 as "Open-Acceptable Alternative Action."
-From Karl Alexy, Director, Office of Safety Analysis: Thank you for the report, End-of-Track Collisions at Terminal Stations, Hoboken, New Jersey, September 29, 2016, and Atlantic Terminal, Brooklyn, New York, January 4, 2017, which was sent to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on February 14, 2018. In the "Safety Recommendations" section of the report, the National Safety Transportation Board (NTSB) issued Safety Recommendations R-18-01 and R-18-02 to FRA, as well as reiterated Safety Recommendations R-12-16 and R-16-44 to FRA. Improving safety is FRA's top priority, and we will continue to work to make rail shipments as safe as possible. We are committed to working with NTSB to prevent future accidents and save lives. FRA welcomes and will consider all recommendations that will further that goal.
On February 6, 2018, the NTSB adopted its report End-of-Track Collisions at Terminal Stations, Hoboken, New Jersey, September 29, 2016, and Atlantic Terminal, Brooklyn, New York, January 4, 2017, SIR-18/01. The details of this special investigation report and the resulting safety recommendations may be found in the attached report, which can also be accessed at http://www.ntsb.gov. Among the safety recommendations are two issued to the Federal Railroad Administration, which can be found on page 41 of the report. Also, two recommendations were reiterated in this report. The NTSB is vitally interested in these recommendations because they are designed to prevent accidents and save lives. We would appreciate a response within 90 days, detailing the actions you have taken or intend to take to implement these recommendations. When replying, please refer to the safety recommendations by number. We encourage you to submit your response to email@example.com. If it exceeds 20 megabytes, including attachments, please e-mail us at the same address for instructions. Please do not submit both an electronic copy and a hard copy of the same response.
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