Commuter Railroad Safety Activities on Conrail's Lines in New York Should Be Improved

CED-78-80: Published: Mar 15, 1978. Publicly Released: Mar 15, 1978.

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The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is responsible for regulating safety functions, investigating accidents and issuing reports on them, and administering railroad safety laws. The Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail), which operates commuter services in the New York metropolitan area, is responsible for implementing safety requirements through inspection, setting of standards, accident reporting, and recordkeeping.

Conrail did not conduct all safety activities prescribed by FRA regulations. Conrail's commuter railroad inspectors failed to inspect track and switches at required intervals, conduct follow-up inspections, and correct deficiencies noted. Although Conrail generally inspected equipment within the required 30-day period, records did not reflect defects, repairs required, or corrective action taken. Conrail could not effectively determine its employees' understanding of safety rules since they were not graded on this knowledge. Accident/incident reports showed a direct relationship between deficient inspection procedures and subsequent accident/incidents. FRA has not been effective in its regulatory role. Its inspections are ineffective because of limited territorial coverage, limited follow-up, and Conrail's failures to correct deficiencies and keep required records. FRA has not taken corrective action on deficiencies noted in a previous GAO report.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: Conrail should: (1) adhere to FRA standards concerning required inspections and mandate follow-up on the deficiencies noted; (2) keep adequate records on the 30-day equipment inspection describing the condition of the equipment; and (3) grade or evaluate employees' test results to determine whether they know railroad operating rules. FRA should monitor Conrail compliance with safety regulations rather than only conduct inspections supplementary to Conrail's.

    Agency Affected:


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