Structural issues stall Hoboken train investigation; NJ Transit paid $500K for safety violations

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HOBOKEN, N.J. — As investigators waited to get to the train that crashed Thursday, records show New Jersey Transit has paid more than $500,000 to settle federal safety violations since 2011.

The data from the Federal Railroad Administration shows the violations ranged from employee drug and alcohol use to violations of railroad operating rules or practices.

National Transportation Safety Board continued their investigation on Saturday. They were hampered because environmental and structural issues still prevent the removal of the train from the station. Extensive amount of debris must be removed before investigators can access the train and then have the train removed. Investigators said they were unable to get to the event recorder and camera from the train that crashed. They were able to get the event recorder from the trailing locomotive. A walking inspection showed nothing that would have affected the performance of the train.

Investigators did interview the accident train engineer and obtained video from other trains that were at the Hoboken Terminal, to see what those cameras captured from the accident.  The event recorder and camera from the controlling cab of the accident train remain inaccessible to investigators.

The NTSB said there were no signal anomalies found on the tracks leading to the terminal, but a full signal study can’t be completed because the accident train remains in the terminal.

The settlement payments include about $70,000 in fines New Jersey Transit received after federal inspectors found more than a dozen violations in 2014 and 2015. Statistics for the current year are not yet available.

A spokesman for the commuter rail didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

A U.S. official told The Associated Press the Federal Railroad Administration issued “dozens of violations” to New Jersey Transit during an audit in June. The official, who was familiar with the audit, spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about an ongoing investigation.

Information from the Associated Press was included in this story.