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MTA, Metro-North Heads Discuss Safety Efforts Before Conn. Legislative Panel

HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) - The MTA chair and Metro-North's new president pledge a return to safety and reliability on the railroad during a meeting Thursday with some Connecticut state lawmakers.

Thomas F. Prendergast, chairman and chief executive of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and Joseph Giulietti met on Thursday with the legislature's Transportation Committee.

They told state lawmakers that the commuter rail line has installed new technology, slowed trains and made internal management changes to improve service.

MTA, Metro-North Heads Discuss Safety Efforts Before Conn. Legislative Panel

"We had some degradation in terms of the basics, in terms of track maintenance. And you need good track, you need safe track, you need good mechanical equipment and you need a signal system," Prendergast said.

Prendergast said Metro-North audited the speed of 3,800 trains, is spending more than $425 million for technology to automatically stop or slow trains and established a chief safety officer job to focus solely on safety.

Giulietti promised better communication with riders.

He said his 100-day plan, to be released on Monday, is the first step in returning quality to a railroad that he said people used to set their watches by.

"We will get to the bottom of it and today, I commit to returning to this committee with those answers sometime after the FRA and the Blue Ribbon Panel on safety have completed their extensive investigations," Giulietti said.

Rep. Antonio Guerrera, the committee's House chairman, told the officials that the rail service's recent record is appalling.

Metro-North has acknowledged repeatedly that 2013 was its worst year in memory. A derailment in Bridgeport in May injured dozens of people and another in the Bronx on Dec. 1 left four people dead.

A power outage in September forced Metro-North to reduce service for nearly two weeks, infuriating passengers and forcing many to take to their cars on crowded Connecticut highways to avoid Metro-North.

The two transportation executives, facing elected officials conveying their constituents' anger, already met with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Jan. 17 and with other elected officials, including U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

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