Metro-North Railroad's two top executives have told Connecticut legislators that the commuter rail line has installed new technology, slowed trains and made internal management changes to improve service.
Thomas Prendergast, chairman and chief executive of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and Joseph Giulietti, the new Metro-North president, met on Thursday with the legislature's Transportation Committee.
Transportation Committee member Danbury state Senator Mike McLachlan called the Danbury Branch the orphan of the MTA.
Ranking Member Brookfield Representative David Scribner says Connecticut has a moral obligation to ensure safety and reliability. He questioned why Connecticut doesn't have a Representative on the MTA board to be involved in Metro North's decision making process. Scribner told the officials that ridership confidence and faith has been significantly compromised by the frequency and severity of the incidents in the past year.
An issue addressed by Prendergast was the winter night passengers were stranded for two hours on a train with no heat or power. He said at some point a rescue train does need to be sent out, and that night there were signal issues. He says the crews do an excellent job, but "sometimes we drop the ball".
Prendergast said Metro-North audited the speed of 3,800 trains, is spending more than $425 million for technology to automatically stop or slow trains and established a chief safety officer job to focus solely on safety.
Giulietti promised better communication with riders. He said in January complaints went from 900 to 2000 compared to 2012.
Rep. Antonio Guerrera, the committee's House chairman, told the officials that the rail service's recent record is appalling. Trains derailed twice, including one that was deadly and a power outage delayed service for nearly two weeks.
Connecticut is half way through a 60 year contract with Metro North. The contract calls for review periods every five years, with the next one due next year.