CTA Terminates Five in July Blue Line Derailment

January 18, 2007

Outlines New Plans for Inspections and Preventive Maintenance

CTA officials said today that following an extensive internal investigation, five employees were terminated for rule violations that allowed track conditions to degrade and cause a derailment. The terminated employees included two track inspectors, their foreman, the engineer responsible for monitoring the foreman's work performance and the manager of track maintenance.

In addition, President Frank Kruesi outlined steps that have already been taken to speed up inspections and make repairs in the subway and longer term plans to improve the rail inspection process and increase preventive maintenance.

On Tuesday, July 11, 2006 a northbound Blue Line train derailed at about 5:07 p.m. in the subway tunnel between the Clark/Lake and Grand stations. The derailment caused a fire and all eight cars of the train had to be evacuated. Although still under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the federal agency that investigates rail accidents, their preliminary statements were that defective track conditions caused the derailment.

The CTA has cooperated fully with the NTSB investigation. At the same time, the CTA has also reviewed its own procedures and examined track inspection and maintenance records and has determined that both inspections and supervision were inconsistent and not complete.

?These employees were entrusted with jobs that are critical to providing safe, reliable service for CTA customers and they let us all down. By abdicating their responsibilities, they put customers and other employees at risk," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. ?We take safety seriously at the CTA and have no room for employees who don?t."

The terminated employees are:

Bruce McFall, Blue Line track inspector who has been with the CTA for six years;

Brian Hill, a Blue Line track inspector who has been with the CTA for eight years;

Darrel Nelson, roadmaster (foreman) and 31 year employee;

Joe Ryan, a track engineer, who has been with the CTA for 29 years; and

Fred Tijan, manager of track maintenance, who has been with the CTA for 18 years.

In addition to these personnel decisions, Kruesi outlined actions taken by the CTA to make sure tracks are safe and that safety procedures and protocols are followed.

  • Following the derailment, the CTA completed a detailed track inspection of the Blue Line subway and developed a schedule to replace corroded parts.
  • A contractor was hired to replace and upgrade all light fixtures in the Dearborn, State and Kimball subways.
  • To expedite the inspections, the CTA contracted with an outside firm, Holland Trackstar, to perform track strength measurements throughout the entire rail system. Those tests were completed in October and will be conducted on an annual basis going forward.
  • Track maintenance management have been directed to more closely monitor track inspections and conduct quality control checks.
  • All track inspectors were required to undergo refresher training. This was completed in December.
  • Track standards have been revised to incorporate improved parts that reduce the likelihood of corrosion.
Kruesi also identified a longer term action plan to make repairs and improve the inspection process.
  • A new computerized database with handheld units for field employees will be used to integrate maintenance records and other information needed to effectively and economically maintain all tracks.
  • A contract is in place to replace 4,000 rail ties in the Blue Line subway.
  • In November, work began to grout all areas of water seepage in the subway.
  • For ballasted portions of track, the CTA is continuing to use tamping equipment as weather permits. Tamping helps realign track and stabilizes the ballast supporting the track.

?Derailments should not occur. The CTA is committed to finding the problem and fixing it and the steps we have taken so far and are taking today have put us on the path to do that," said Kruesi.

Kruesi noted that the more intensive inspections have resulted in more frequent reports of potential problems.

"These inspections have resulted in some service disruptions in recent months when we have discovered problems, such as cracked rails, that require immediate repair," he said. ?We realize that this inconveniences customers, but it also is a clear indication that the preventive maintenance steps we have taken are working."

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