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Home Travel Brake failures caused by vandals contributed to NYC subway collision that left 24 commuters injured: feds

Brake failures caused by vandals contributed to NYC subway collision that left 24 commuters injured: feds

by Staff

Radio and brake failures contributed to the collision between two No. 1 trains which left dozens injured earlier this month, and put the MTA’s safety record under the microscope, federal investigators confirmed Thursday.

Two key safety systems put in place by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to deal with trains suffering a malfunction did not work as intended in the lead-up to the Jan. 4 crash and subsequent derailments, according to the portrait painted by the National Transportation Safety Board preliminary report.

“An accident happened, we need to make sure that it doesn’t happen again,” said Rich Davey, the MTA’s chief of the subways and bus systems, at a press conference in Lower Manhattan shortly after the report’s release.

The stage for the wreck was set on the uptown No. 1 line #1345 when a vandal went through several of the cars pulling the emergency brake cords, forcing MTA employees to discharge passengers from the train at 79th Street and then attempt to reset the train’s systems.

The brake systems in one of the front cars of the aging R62 — which dates back the Reagan administration — wouldn’t cooperate.

The scene beneath 96th Street after two No. 1 trains collided in January. At least two dozen passengers were injured. Metropolitan Transportation Authority

MTA managers back at the central control center for the numbered lines instructed the crew to put the systems for the first five cars into neutral and drive the train to the 240th Street yard from the conductor’s cab, using the brakes and engines on the back five cars.

An MTA staffer was assigned to the front of the train to serve as its “eyes” and was supposed to radio back instructions to the driver in the sixth car, who was controlling the train.

The train began to crawl northward — but the staffer up front told the NTSB that they lost contact with the driver as the train approached the 96th Street station.

Crews examine the damage after the collision. Keegan, Meghan
Passengers were treated by emergency responders after being evacuated. Stephen Yang for NY Post

The train then ran a red signal that should have tripped its emergency brake system and brought it to a halt.

However, the brake that the signal was supposed to trip is in the front cars, and was one of the systems put into neutral by the crew to move the train, meaning it could not be turned on.

The crippled train then hit a second northbound No. 1 train that had the signal to pass the crippled train and move from the express track back to the local track to continue up Broadway.

At least 24 people were hurt in the collision, though none of the injuries were serious.

Emergency responders assembled above the 96th Street station on the Upper West Side in January after two No. 1 trains collided. Stephen Yang for NY Post

The NTSB added Thursday that its investigation “is ongoing” and that probers were eying MTA procedures on how it handles malfunctioning trains and its radio communication systems.

Davey said at the press conference that it was “not uncommon” that MTA staffers would put a flagger in the front and drive an empty train from the conductor’s booth to get it back to a yard or a pocket track when it malfunctions or needs repairs.

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