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Deadly Bronx train crash: Automatic braking system to be added at railroad curve

Craig Ruttle / AP

A Metro-North Railroad passenger train pulls out of the Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx borough of New York on Wednesday as it passes the site of a Dec. 1 fatal derailment.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said Sunday that it was adding an automatic safety braking system on the curve where a Metro-North commuter train derailed in the Bronx, killing four people.

The authority, which controls public transportation in New York, said it planned to install several new protections, including a signal system that will warn the engineer to slow the train and automatically do so if the engineer fails to in spots where there is a dramatic speed change.

The Dec. 1 accident happened on a sharp curve in the Bronx where the speed limit switches from 70 mph to 30 mph. The train was going 82 mph as it approached the Spuyten Duyvil station, officials said.

The new system will be fully operational Monday.

“Metro-North is taking important steps to improve safety for its customers and employees, and I expect the railroad will continue searching for ways to improve its operations and fully restore its commuters' confidence,” MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said in the MTA statement.

Carlo Allegri / Reuters

At least four people were killed and 63 others were injured when a Metro-North train jumped the tracks as it was rounding a curve about 100 yards from a stop.

The announcement came just two days after federal officials ordered Metro-North to make significant safety improvements to prevent a repeat of the high-speed crash, which killed four people and injured 63 others.

The engineer, William Rockefeller, was alone in the control cab at the time. He told investigators he simply zoned out and came out of "a daze" too late to slow down, his lawyer said.

By Tuesday, all Metro-North trains will “enhance communication between train engineers and conductors to ensure trains are operated at safe speeds” at four other critical curves and five movables bridges, the MTA said, adding that conductors will stand alongside engineers at each train’s control cab at the sharp curves to “verbally confirm that speed limits are adhered to.”

The MTA also said that engineers are developing new signal protections to automatically apply speed limits at the four curves by March and at the five movable bridges by September.