Metro-North identifies track worker killed Monday morning

Metro-North Railroad has identified the power worker killed by a train in East Harlem near 106th Street as 58-year-old James Romansoff of Yonkers,N.Y.

Romansoff died at Mount Sinai Hospital after he was struck by a Poughkeepsie-bound Hudson Line train at 12:54 a.m.
Romansoff was an eight-year employee in Metro-North’s Power Department, and was part of a crew restoring power to tracks that had been closed for weekend maintenance work, according to Metro-North spokeswoman Meredith Daniels.

“The entire Metro-North family mourns the loss of a colleague and a friend and we offer our deepest condolences to Jim Romansoff’s family,” said Metro-North President Joseph Giulietti. “Keeping our customers and employees safe is the most important job we have on the railroad. With our partners at the Federal Railroad Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, we will re-examine our procedures and protocols to ensure we are performing our jobs with safety as the paramount concern.”

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Railroad Administration are investigating the cause of the accident, which is also being investigated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police.

Metro-North said 36 passengers were on board the train, the 12:47 a.m. from Grand Central Terminal, and were transferred onto another train to continue their trip by 2:17 a.m.

Metro-North did not immediately release additional details of the accident and whether recently adopted safeguards and protocols were followed.

Last week, new Metro-North President Joseph Guilietti announced Metro-North released a 100 day safety plan of ongoing and completed initiatives which included an enhanced system to protect track worker safety.

In comments since coming into the job in early February, Guilietti has emphasized placing a higher priority on safety than on-time performance.

The new computer software based system, called the enhanced employee safety system would require rail traffic controllers to transmit a random code to a rail foreman during maintenance operations that would need to be sent back before a piece of track was reopened to rail traffic.

The National Transportation Safety Board recommended the railroad institute new safeguards to correct “inadequate” protection for railway workers.

Under the new system, a rail traffic controller would transmit a random code to a rail foreman that would need to be sent back to the controller before a piece of closed track could be reopened to trains.

The NTSB’s recommendations stemmed from its investigation of the death in May of 52-year-old Robert Ludens who was struck by a train traveling 70 miles per hour when a rookie rail traffic controller mistakenly reopened a piece of track where he was working.

“We will be working in concert with the NTSB to investigate the cause of yesterday’s tragic employee fatality,” Kevin Thompson, a spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration said Monday. “While we have concluded much of the investigative work related to Operation Deep Dive in order to report our findings to Congress next week, our findings will be heavily considered as we conduct our investigation into yesterday’s accident and as we continue to work with Metro North to improve its safety record going forward.”

Guilietti’s safety plan announced last week came after nearly a year of ongoing safety disasters including two passenger train derailments  Bridgeport and the Bronx,N.Y. and a slew of service disruptions and pervasive delays related to safety-driven track work.

The railroad’s troubles began with the derailment of a train and collision with another in Bridgeport which injured 76 people, followed two weeks later by Ludens’ death.

More  rigorous track inspection methods adopted in the wake of the Bridgeport derailment has resulted in identifying needed repairs that have slowed rush hour trains on a daily basis.

In September, the railroad was again questioned when a 138,000-volt feeder cable in Mount Vernon disrupted electric train service for more than 13 days while a second cable was out of commission for repairs, leaving no backup power to drive trains.

In December, four people were killed in a derailment in the Bronx, N.Y. when an engineer dozed off, and a train careened into a sharp curve at 82 miles per hour where the speed limit was 30.

In late January, the entire Metro-North rail network came to a halt on a frigid night when a maintenance crew knocked out power to an auxiliary power system on the railroad’s centralized signalization computer.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal-D-Connecticut said he had already reached out to U.S. Sen. Richard Schumer-D-New York to seek answers whether newly adopted safeguards, including the enhanced worker protection system were used.

“The reason to demand answers from Metro-North and the National Transportation Safety Board is very simply this is the second fatal tragedy of a worker in a year and completely unacceptable,” Blumenthal said. ” If proper worker protection protocols are in place there should be no such tragedies or safety incidents of this severity. Everyone who rides the rails in the Northeast has a stake in safety and reliability, including the workers who provide this essential service.”