Transit boss: Metro-North Railroad workers on job 7 days straight at time of 2013 derailments

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HARTFORD, Connecticut — The head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority told federal safety officials that traffic control staff at the Metro-North Railroad had worked seven days straight for weeks when several accidents, including one fatal, disrupted commutes in Connecticut and New York last year.

MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast said in an interview with the National Transportation Safety Board in March that the overworked staffers direct commuter train movements, making sure trains run without problems. He blamed personnel shortages for the work schedules.

The New York Daily News (http://nydn.us/1ytLxPH) reported Sunday on the interview.

It's exactly "the wrong place" to have fatigued employees, Prendergast said. "You overload them and they'll make a bad decision."

A Metro-North train derailed in the Bronx on Dec. 1, 2013, killing four passengers.

Earlier that year, a track worker was struck and killed by a train in West Haven, Connecticut, and scores were injured in a derailment in Bridgeport, Connecticut, days earlier.

Prendergast expressed disbelief at the extent of the weaknesses. He was chairman five months when the Bridgeport derailment occurred.

"The decay was a lot worse than you would have expected it to be," he said.

Management wasn't "staying on top of inspections" and making sure rails were permanently repaired, Prendergast said. And there was no systematic tracking of defects to identify dangerous trends.

Federal investigators examining the cause of the Bridgeport derailment found that joint bars attached to two tracks of different sizes were broken. Metro-North records indicate the inspection was most likely performed from a different track. As a result, the rail with the broken joint would not have been visible during the inspection, NTSB said.

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