It’s been over a year since a CTA blue line train derailed in the early morning hours at O’Hare airport. The train flew off the tracks and up an escalator, injuring several passengers. Luckily there were no fatalities. It was reported multiple times that the conductor may have dozed off to sleep immediately prior to the train crash.
In response last week the National Traffic Safety Board (“NTSB”) held meetings in Washington D.C. to try and find some resolution as to what would cause the train to derail in such a manner. As the Chicago Sun-Times reported this week, the NTSB blamed the CTA for failing to prevent employee fatigue that they said was a factor in last year’s Blue Line crash. “The layers of protection designed to protect such an accident failed,” said Christopher Hart, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. The conductor was allegedly working her 12th straight day on the date of the train accident.
The investigators found that the conductor was suffering from “sleep debt” and was impaired by fatigue because of several factors. “Chicago Transit Authority failed to effectively manage the operator’s work schedule to mitigate the risk of fatigue,” the NTSB said. Federal investigators recommended the Federal Transit Administration develop work scheduling programs that take into account the science of fatigue and include evaluation of the risks of fatigue. The federal agency found Haywood “was likely sleep-deprived,” though a CTA spokesman on Tuesday said she was not “exhausted.”
The NTSB also issued several other recommendations, including that the CTA install a transmission-based control system on all routes; such a system would automatically brake in times of emergency. The agency’s recommendation was extended to all transit agencies in the U.S. The agency also wants upgraded “event recorders” on each CTA car; those devices save certain information, such as the position of the controls that investigators might want to know after an accident.
The investigation also showed the middle track did not appear to have been originally intended to be used for arriving trains but had become commonly used for that purpose. That center track’s design, the NTSB found, “was not adequate to prevent a train from striking the bumping post near the end of the track.”
In summery, it is the NTSB’s opinion that the CTA should have worked out a better schedule to prevent an employee from working 12 straight days, which would have prevented a fatigued conductor behind the train’s wheels at the time of the accident. They also believed there could be a better safety brake system, which would have stopped the train on time and prevented it from derailing. The NTSB basically proved the injured passengers case for their attorneys as there were multiple items that could have prevented this accident. Again, we are lucky that no one died from this accident, but those who were injured should see compensation from the CTA for their medical bills, treatment, pain and suffering and lost wages as they were obviously at fault for this train accident.