Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo held a briefing to provide an update on last night's LIRR derailment in New Hyde Park.
VIDEO of the Governor's tour to inspect the site is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h264, mp4) format here.
VIDEO of the Governor's opening remarks and Q&A with MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h264, mp4) format here.
AUDIO of the Governor’s opening remarks and Q&A with MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast is available here.
PHOTOS of the event are available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor’s opening remarks and the Q&A is available below:
Thank you. Thank you County Executive. First, when you look at the actual damage to this situation, this silver lining is we’re fortunate that more people weren’t seriously hurt. The damage to the train cars is extensive and we have had a number of injuries, but frankly, that we didn’t lose any lives is something to be thankful for.
As the County Executive said, the first responders did a magnificent job. We’ve been through enough of these situations where we know the performance of the first responders can make all the difference. This is a difficult area to get to get to. You have that hill that you have to go up. We’re now looking at it in daylight hours, but just imagine this in the pitch black where you have to get into that car and get injured people out and carry them down that slope, how hard that is and they did it fantastically well. So I want to thank the county officials and the local officials, County Executive Mangano, for all their help and thanks.
The NTSB will be on-site and they’re going to do an investigation as to how it happened. As you heard from Chairman Prendergast, both trains were running in the same direction. One was a work train, one was a revenue train and they sideswiped each other. The question is why and rather than speculate on all the possible reasons why they could have sideswiped each other, I think the best course is let NTSB do their work, lets get the facts and then lets go from there. Once we have the facts from NTSB, anything the LIRR can learn from the incident, we will learn.
I want to thank Anthony Simon for being here. He represents the Long Island Rail Road workers and our federal colleagues. So once we have the facts, if there is something to change, we will. The order of business for this afternoon is going to be getting the trains out of the way and getting the tracks back in service. Tomorrow, luckily, is a holiday – Columbus Day. So the traffic should be somewhat lighter. But ideally, we would have both tracks up and running. At a minimum, we would have one track up and running. We have ordered out additional state resources to work with the MTA to do everything we can to expedite the tracking being back in service. If we have to work all day and all night long, we will because we want to make sure tomorrow’s commute is as normal and as easy as possible.
Again, I want to thank all of our colleagues who were so helpful in both the response and the federal colleagues who will now take over the investigation. I will now turn it back to the Chairman. Any on-topic questions will be our pleasure to answer.
Chairman Prendergast: Yes, the tracks are spaced far enough apart for that generally to happen. For some reason, in this particular case, the piece of work equipment – the yellow piece of work equipment – came over into the clearance for the revenue service track at the time. That's what we need to investigate: why did that happen.
Chairman Prendergast: I understand it is 36 customers. Seven employees; two that were on the work train and five that were on the revenue service train.
Chairman Prendergast: That will be part of the investigation but the revenue service train was most likely going faster than the piece of work equipment.
Chairman Prendergast: The work train was on the track closest to us because the track was out of service. They were doing maintenance on the track and one of the last steps is that piece of equipment going back and forth and I think they had completed and they were going to make a move east with all of the work equipment and clear up. Why it ended up where it did – violating the clearance [inaudible] of the other track – that's what we need to find out in the investigation.
Prendergast: Absolutely. The passenger train was where it was supposed to be, yes.
Prendergast: I’m sorry?
Prendergast: I believe one of the employees suffered laceration on one of the pieces of work equipment and I believe a customer had multiple fractures.
Prendergast: I’m sorry?
Chairman Prendergast: The third track would make the recovery better. Right now, we’ve got two tracks that are affected. If we had a third track, we could be running on that track now and have surety of that track for the morning rush hour.
Chairman Prendergast: Not until we actually - as the Governor said, our ultimate goal is to get both tracks back for a normal rush hour. Short of that would be one track back and then we would inform the public of what those impacts would be if it was one track.
Governor Cuomo: On the third track question, which is an ongoing project that we’re working on, the third track would give you more flexibility. If you have had an third track now and you had an incident involving two tracks, you could still be running trains. That's our point. It just gives you more flexibility, it gives you redundancy, et cetera and you can actually run more trains. In terms of why did the work train violate the space of the revenue train, that we’re going to have to wait for the NTSB to actually do an investigation so we don’t have to guess and we don’t go through a lot of possibilities which we often do in these situations. And then whatever we can learn, we will learn. The focus to get up and running for tomorrow morning’s commute and then Tuesday. We are going to make all available resources and you can’t have a better effort at getting ready for the commute, that I can tell you. We’re bringing other pieces of equipment and personnel from other agencies to help, but the train is severely off the tracks. It’s in a dangerous, precarious position. You want to lift the train back onto the tracks. You don’t want the train to tip over, which is a possibility. If it tips over, it’s a more complicated recovery effort. So, there is a degree of sensitivity involved. Any other questions?
Chairman Prendergast: That will be part of the investigation, but there are procedures in place that allow trains to move on adjacent track at either the civil speed or a reduced speed, depending upon the nature of the work, but that’s part of the investigation.
Chairman Prendergast: That’s what the Governor was alluding to in a sense because we want to get both tracks back for the morning rush hour. That yellow piece of equipment will be within the next hour or so, he’ll move it west, then we’ll concentrate on the revenue equipment.
Reporter: I can think of four incidents in the last seven, eight years involving LIRR trains colliding with each other – does this speak to some kind of safety problem at LIRR?
Chairman Prendergast: Issues with trains colliding with other trains or other objects occur on railroads all the time. We treat them very seriously for the obvious reason, so this is one we’re going to look at, and like I said, we need to let the facts speak for themselves with respect to this incident.
Reporter: Why is the New York State Department of Homeland Security here?
Governor Cuomo: The New York State Department of Homeland Security is part of the normal emergency response, so whenever we have a situation like this, Homeland Security, Emergency Management are both sister and brother agencies and they always respond.