The investigation into last year’s Chicago Transit Authority train crash at the O’Hare subway station concluded this week. The National Transportation Safety Board listed several factors as contributing to the March 2014 accident that injured 33 people. The failure of the rail operator to report to work properly rested and the failure of the CTA to manage her schedule were listed as the probable cause of the accident, according to the NTSB report.
When the operator of the Blue Line train fell asleep at the controls, the eight-car train overran the bumping post and crashed into an escalator. The operator admitted to the NTSB that she had fallen asleep and indicated that it was not the first time. She was dealing with changing starting times and was working at a time when fatigue is a likely problem. The crash occurred at roughly 3 a.m.
In addition to the problems related to a fatigued operator, the NTSB report mentioned the inadequacy of safety measures. The investigation questioned the speed restrictions in place, as well as the stopping distances in emergency situations. NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said, “The layers of protection designed to prevent such an accident failed.” He suggested that there should be a safety measure in place to stop the train in time automatically once the operator fails to obey a red signal. The safety sensor that triggers the automatic braking system was not positioned correctly to stop the train before it collided with the bumper and went off the rail.
In response to the accident, the CTA did implement changes specific to the O’Hare station. It also made changes about work and rest rules for its operators. It remains to be seen if the results of the NTSB investigation will lead to further changes.
Source: Chicago Tribune, “NTSB cites operator fatigue, lack of safety equipment in CTA crash at O’Hare,” by Jon Hilkevitch, 28 April, 2015