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Last updated: May 18, 2013 6:08 am
Rail services between New York and New England face days of disruption after two trains carrying hundreds of passengers collided in Connecticut on Friday after one of them left the rails. Sixty people were injured, five of them critically.
A Metro-North train with about 300 people on board was travelling from Grand Central in New York City to New Haven on Friday evening when it derailed near Bridgeport, about 60 miles from Manhattan. A train carrying up to 400 people heading to Grand Central on an adjacent track struck the derailed train.
One Canadian passenger said: “People were screaming. They had to smash a window to get us out.”
Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy told reporters at the scene that one of those hurt was in a “very critical condition”. Sixty people had been taken to local hospitals.
“It’s pretty devastating damage to a number of cars,” Mr Malloy said. “Cars came into contact, ripping off at least a portion of the side of one of the vehicles.”
Bridgeport police chief Joseph Gaudett praised passengers. “Everybody seemed pretty calm,” he said.
The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team to investigate what had happened. Metropolitan Transportation Authority police and FBI officials are also among those involved in the investigation, according to the MTA.
Mr Malloy said he had no reason to believe the crash was anything other than an accident.
He said much of the route was likely to remain shut at least until Monday, as investigators tried to establish what had caused the crash, removed the damaged carriages and repaired the track.
The route is used by Amtrak long-distance passenger trains as well as Metro-North services, which carry commuters to and from New York City. Metro-North, operated by New York State’s MTA, suspended services on its New Haven line at South Norwalk, near Bridgeport, after the incident.
Amtrak said all services between New York and Boston were suspended “indefinitely”. Acela Express and Northeast Regional trains between New York’s Penn Station and Boston were affected. Information about restoring services would be published when available, officials said.
It is the most significant incident in the US involving passenger trains since two trains on the Washington DC metro collided in June 2009, killing the train operator and eight passengers.
There are four tracks in the area of Friday’s crash but two of those were already out of service while overhead wires were being replaced. The other two tracks and overhead wires suffered extensive damage.
Mr Malloy said it would normally have been possible to divert trains to the other tracks through the area.
New York state governor Andrew Cuomo sent MTA chairman Tom Prendergast to the scene as well as additional emergency MTA personnel and resources. The governor spoke with Mr Malloy to co-ordinate the two states’ responses.
The MTA said normal service through the area was not expected to resume until a full investigation by the NTSB was complete, the infrastructure was assessed and repairs were made.
Mr Malloy said the aim was to return services to normal by the beginning of the week but authorities would give updates on the position over the weekend.
US passenger rail services generally have a good safety record. But both signalling systems and rolling stock on many services are old by international standards.
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