NTSB issues two 'urgent' recommendations to CTA following crash

Report: Unoccupied Blue Line train was left in yard with power on

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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

Click here to see the letter from the NTSB.

The National Transportation Safety Board, the federal agency tasked with investigating Monday morning's Blue Line crash at the Harlem stop, released a report Oct. 4 detailing its "urgent" recommendations for the Chicago Transit Authority.

The Sept. 30, incident involved a driverless four-car CTA train that traveled along a half-mile track in the wrong direction until it struck a stationary train at 20 miles per hour, leaving dozens of people injured.

Friday's NTSB report revealed that the unoccupied train was left running while it was awaiting repairs when it began moving, traveling through five mechanical train stop mechanisms. The emergency brakes were applied, according to the report, and it was momentarily stopped several times before it reached the Harlem station, where the crash occurred.

"Following each stop, the train movement returned because the master lever on the operator console had been left in a setting that allowed the train car brakes to recover and reset from the emergency brake application. …the investigation of the cause of unintended movement continues."

According to the report, it's not uncommon for unoccupied CTA trains to be routinely left powered-up while stored in a manner that would allow movement. The NTSB, however, suggested that there are safety mechanisms available for the CTA to use to prevent such an issue from occurring again.

"The NTSB believed that had a wheel chock and/or a derail been in use at the Forest Park Terminal, the train could have been stopped before it entered mainline track and the accident could have been prevented."

"Chocks" are placed on the rail immediately in front of a wheel to prevent the wheel from rolling in the direction of the chock, according to the report.

The agency also reports that "upon inspection one of the cars of the unoccupied train was found to have thermally damaged wiring and water in electrical connection boxes on the car."

The NTSB issued the following "urgent" recommendations:

  • "Review your operating and maintenance procedures for stored unoccupied cars to ensure the propulsion and brake systems are left in a condition that would not facilitate unintended movement."
  • "Immediately implement redundant means of stopping unintended rail car movements, such as wheel chocks or a derail."

The report details that NTSB is still investigating the issue and noted that the matter should be "addressed expeditiously to prevent a recurrence." In a letter to the CTA, the request asks for a response within 30 days detailing the actions the transportation agency has taken or intends to take to address the problems.

National Transportation Safety Board Safety Recommendation by wednesdayjournal

Email: anna@oakpark.com Twitter: @AnnaLothson

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Q from Oak Park  

Posted: October 7th, 2013 7:31 PM

joe from south oak park, if you want an idea of how many smart people there are around, stand on any corner and watch people look down to their phones walking into traffic. If the person is fortunate enough the driver won't be texting on theirs. Technology has made it a lot easier for people. If you want an answer that you don't need to work for, google it, GPS, and if you want to share with others what you are going to eat, take a picture of it and post it on facebook. Thinking takes effort.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: October 7th, 2013 12:42 PM

CT- If someone here was smart enough to think of this solution why wasn't it implemented?

Not a fan of NTSB? from Oak Park  

Posted: October 7th, 2013 11:58 AM

I wonder if people writing even know what the NTSB is, but I am sure that they have greatly benefited form the agency findings in the 1994 ATR72 crash in IN. Against the turbopros used by AA in zones where ice might build up on the wings, after looking at metal pieces no bigger than a passenger's wallet. Or the stability control rule for SUV? Remember the finger pointing between Ford and Firestone about SUV rollovers? NTSB guilty in all cases. So let's defund them now, and for ever.

Tired of Taxes from Oak Park  

Posted: October 7th, 2013 9:12 AM

Why do I have the feeling that if this had been a privately owned railroad accident the owners would be dragged in leg-irons before a Senate panel and treated like serial killers. Based on the article, it sounds like their was definite human error on the part of a CTA employee or two.

CT from River Forest  

Posted: October 5th, 2013 1:33 PM

What what we would have done without the NTSB recommendations (which I have helpfully summarized) to: 1. Look into this so that it does not happen again. 2. Employ redundancy. 3. Put a brick behind the wheel. I imagine the NTSB has an entire staff of tenured PHDs who help them with these recommendations. Certainly no one in Forest Park, OP or RF would have considered these solutions! I am guessing these folks fall into the "Non-Essential Federal Employee" category.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: October 4th, 2013 10:34 PM

The trains will not move unless a conductor pulls the lever, or at least that is how it's suppose to be. Lets say that safety feature that has been around probably since the 1800's isn't necessary any longer. You turn the train off, and if that isn't efficient management, then you dis-engage the gears from the motor and apply the brake. If something like this happens again, then the cause can be a faulty brake or faulty motor engagement so there is at least a reason for it.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: October 4th, 2013 8:10 PM

"Substance" too.


Posted: October 4th, 2013 5:23 PM

Wow - a little lite on sustance.

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