- Published: 06 January 2017
- Written by John Bobsin
On September 29, 2016 an NJ Transit train inbound from Spring Valley crashed into a bumper block at the line's Hoboken terminal. A bystander was tragically killed, and there were many injuries on board the train, some serious. In a strikingly similar incident, a Long Island Rail Road train crashed on January 4 at that line's Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn. In the LIRR incident, fortunately injuries were not as serious, with a broken leg as the worst casualty. But the accidents were remarkably similar: a train under control of the engineer, apparently unrestricted by safety devices on the final approach to the end of track, crashed into the bumper; and the engineer in each case could not remember what happened. In the case of NJT, the railroad instituted new safety procedures, lowering train speeds at stub-ended terminals in Hoboken and Atlantic City (but not at New York's busy Penn Station, where the four tracks that NJT uses most end in a bumper block); NJT also instituted new rules on employees with sleep apnea, blamed for the cause of the Hoboken crash. The cause of the LIRR accident remains under investigation.
Both NJT and LIRR have suffered accidents; which is safer? Overall, according to reporting by Larry Higgs for NJ Advance Media, the Long Island Rail Road has the "inside track" on safety. if the measure is accident rates per million passenger miles. In fact, LIRR's rate of 0.95 per million passenger miles is just half that of the 1.9 recorded by NJT. But how you figure safety depends on what statistics are examined; are accidents in which trespassers are struck included, and so on. In some measures, NJT comes out the worse, but in others, the LIRR is the loser. But there is no doubt that the publicity of the recent accidents in Hoboken and Brooklyn will bring more attention to safety on all commuter lines.