DOBBS FERRY - A panel of transportation experts has found that safety has not been Metro-North's top priority.

According to a blue ribbon panel to study improving conditions on the MTA's system, being on time has been more important to the agency than safety.

The MTA put the panel together to study problems after several accidents, including last year's December's train derailment that killed four people.

The group found Metro-North Railroad has been sacrificing safety for on-time performance, and as a result, employees have not had enough time to perform necessary inspections and maintenance work on the track.

One of the panel's recommendations is for Metro-North to automate its process for assessing track conditions and then using that data to plan maintenance work.

It also suggested adjusting train schedules to allow more time for maintenance crews.

MTA officials say the agency has already taken significant steps to address safety issues during the past year.