By Barbara Goldberg
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Two New York City subway supervisors were suspended without pay on Wednesday, a day after a derailment in Manhattan that injured 34 people and was blamed on a piece of unsecured replacement track, the transit authority said.
The train struck a tunnel wall and derailed in Harlem because a replacement rail stored on the tracks was not properly bolted down, according to a preliminary investigation by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).
“Two supervisors who were responsible for oversight of the work have been suspended without pay pending a formal review process (and final outcome of the investigation),” MTA spokeswoman Beth DeFalco said in a statement.
The MTA has said that storing equipment between tracks is often employed by railroads because it can make repairs quicker.
Tuesday’s crash forced the evacuation of passengers from dark, smoke-filled train carriages. Thirty-four people suffered minor injuries.
Transit inspectors are now checking “every inch of rail to ensure that each and every replacement part is properly stored and secured,” the MTA said. “The cause appears to be human error, not a track defect.”
Angered over problems including delays, the derailment, and a train that was stuck underground for an hour on June 5 with no lights or air conditioning, some riders planned to protest on Wednesday evening outside the Manhattan office of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who controls the MTA.
They want Cuomo to “fund and fix” the system that carries nearly 6 million riders a day, the organizers, Riders Alliance, a public transportation advocacy group, said in a statement.
Cuomo has been outspoken about problems that affect suburban commuters at New York City’s busy Pennsylvania Station. The governor has so far been silent about Tuesday’s derailment and his office did not respond to requests for comment.
During an interview last month on CNBC, the Democratic governor said the federal government was to blame for not responding to the state’s requests for transportation funding.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is often at odds with Cuomo, said the subway should be a top focus of the MTA.
“We need to figure out, with the substantial resources the MTA has right now, how to focus on New York City subways,” de Blasio told WCBS Radio on Wednesday.
He blamed declining federal investment in infrastructure nationwide since the 1980s: “I don’t think it’s mysterious after the decline we’ve seen over so many decades.”
(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Taylor Harris and Grant McCool)