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NTSB: Two similar 2001 CTA collisions result of operator error


Two rear-end collisions involving Chicago Transit Authority trains that happened in June and August of 2001 were attributable to operators failing to comply with operating rules — and a contributing factor was CTA’s failure to exercise adequate operational safety oversight, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report issued Sept. 4.

In the June collision, trains were being operated on a single-track detour around some maintenance work on a parallel track. CTA generally cut out cab signaling and allowed trains to move through a single-track detour at close spacing. This, NTSB concluded, "set the stage for train 104 to re-enter and proceed on cab signal track with inactive cab signals, albeit in violation of CTA’s operating rules."

If the operator had stopped and contacted the control center when the cab signals didn’t activate, and if the control center had then followed existing manual block procedures, NTSB believes the collision would have been prevented. Instead, the train collided with a standing train near the Addison Street Station.

Eighteen passengers, an off-duty CTA employee and both train operators sustained minor injuries; CTA estimated damage at $30,000.

NTSB also determined that the operator had ample time to see the train ahead and stop, but failed to do so for unexplained reasons.

The August collision, too, would have been prevented if the operator of train 416 had waited for a stop signal to clear before proceeding, according to the NTSB report. In that case, train 416 collided with a standing train near Hill Station; 18 people sustained minor injuries and damages were estimated at $136,000.

Again, the operator could have seen the train and stopped, but failed to do so.

In its investigation, the board also determined that CTA’s program for enforcing operating rules was "inadequate."

"Consequently, rules violations such as those related to these two accidents were not uncommon," said the report.

The board recommended CTA "develop and implement systemic procedures for performing and documenting frequent management checks to ensure all operating personnel are complying with CTA operating rules, including speed restrictions and signal rules."

The board recommended that American Public Transportation Association modify its manual to provide specific guidance for agencies to use in auditing the effectiveness of their compliance programs, and include guidance for operators on performing unannounced rules compliance observations and efficiency tests.

NTSB plans to publish a complete final report on the two collisions in early October.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/5/2002