Yet another train derailment on Monday at Penn Station has experts’ wheels turning aboutthe apparent uptick in commuter train issues in the New York region recently, with four crashes occurring in six months.
At around 9 a.m. on Monday, aNJTransit train carrying 1,200 passengers derailed at a slow speed while entering Penn Station.
Initial reports indicated that a wheel might have fallen off the train. A spokesperson for the carrier said that their investigation is ongoing and the cause hasn’t been determined.
Injuries from Monday’s mishap were few and minor, but the incident is strikingly similar to another one on March 24 when an Amtrak train entering Penn Station derailedat a slow speedand sideswiped an NJTransit train, also at 9 a.m.
The March 24 derailment was blamed on a wheel malfunctionthat caused it to loose contact with the track.
Railroad Expert Richard Beall told Metro that the similaritybetween the two events — same station, same time, and perhaps both caused by a wheel problem — is incredibly strange.
“A wheel falling off is about as rare an event I can think of. So two coming off in a week is like as rare as winning the lottery twice,” Beall said.
“Wheels don’t just fly off. They might fracture or break, but two in a week at the same place? Damn near impossible,” he said.
Passenger and commuter train equipment is inspected on a daily basis, and there are more extensive checks every 92 days, he said.
The issue might be something else at the station itself, as it’s the “common denominator,” and could be related to the rails or the signals, he said.
Another possibility might be a faulty batch of equipment being used by multiple companies, suggested airport and railroad engineering expert Augustine Ubaldi.
“It could be the steel,”Ubaldi told Metro. “It could be a bad batch of wheels got shipped. Like car tires, if they’re bad, then they are bad for whatever car can fitthem.”
Ubaldi added that the wheel could have detached as a result of the accident and didn’t cause the derailment.
“There are three things that cause train derailments: Something wrong with the track, something wrong with the equipment, and something wrong with the operators,” Ubaldi said.
On Feb. 4, an L.I.R.R. train crashed into Atlantic Station in Brooklyn, injuring 100. The cause of that incident was linked to the driver’s sleep apnea.
And on Sept. 29, 2016, a NJ Transit train killed one person and seriously injured dozens more when the it crashed into the Hoboken Station. That incident was also attributed to the engineer’s undiagnosed sleep disorder.