NEW YORK — Two US senators on Sunday called for expanded national railroad safety inspections, a day before a special federal safety team arrives in New York for a 60-day inquiry into operations on the Metro-North Railroad commuter train after the deaths of four passengers.
In light of the deadly Dec. 1 derailment, Senator Charles Schumer said safety inspections are ‘‘woefully underfunded’’ and that the Federal Railroad Administration ‘‘simply doesn’t have enough resources to fully inspect our rail lines, to sufficiently prepare implementation of safety measures or even do safety spot checks around the country.’’
The New York Democrat was joined by Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, for a news conference at Grand Central Terminal, where the Metro-North train was headed before it crashed in the Bronx.
More than 60 people were hurt when the Metro-North train went off the tracks as it approached a sharp curve. Federal investigators said the train was going 82 miles per hour — more than twice the 30 mile-per-hour speed limit at that point. The train engineer said he nodded at the controls, according to the investigators, his attorney, and a union official.
Schumer and Blumenthal want Congress to meet the Obama administration’s full request of $185 million for safety and operations for fiscal year 2014 — an increase of about $15 million from this year’s budget, which cut $9 million from the railroad administration.
The senators want the agency to hire at least 45 additional inspectors to bolster a staff of 347 devoted to safety. But the two Democrats said only 78 are actually checking tracks, and the government has only enough funds to inspect safety conditions, infrastructure, and protocols at 1 percent of the nation’s railroads.
A US safety team is being dispatched to New York on Monday for a 60-day inquiry into Metro-North operations.