The National Transportation Safety Board says safety systems at the Chicago Transit Authority's O'Hare station were inadequate to stop the train involved in a violent crash two weeks ago which injured 32 people.
In a preliminary report issued Monday, the safety agency said a trackside device known as a "trip", designed to throw the train into emergency stop did activate the proper braking systems. But, the report noted, "due to the train speed, the distance from the fixed trip stop to the track bumper post was too short to stop the train."
"If it had been placed properly, then this would not have happened," said Jerry Latherow, a lawyer representing four of the crash victims. "One thing I was very glad to see was the CTA acted on this immediately."
He was referring to a CTA announcement last Friday, that they had moved that trip stop further out from the end of the platform. The rail agency also said they were modifying work rules for motormen. The NTSB report noted that train operator Brittney Haywood admitted dozing off at the controls just prior to the crash. Soon, the CTA says, it will implement new schedules where no operator will work more than 12 hours of actual train duty in a 14 hour period.
"They are confirming that there are things that did not stop this," union chief Robert Kelly said Monday, pointedly challenging CTA President Forrest Claypool on the new scheduling plans. "He cannot just walk in and start unilaterally changing work rules!"
- March 24: 32 Injured in Crash
- March 24: NTSB Takes Over Investigation
- March 25: Union: Operator Appears to Have Dozed Off
Kelly said while his union backs any change which will enhance safety, any rule changes must be negotiated with the union. And he questioned the math of how the CTA can implement the new schedules.
"They're saying what they want to do, and my experience says you're going to need a lot more people," Kelly said.
As for the firing of Haywood on Friday, Kelly said, "They did a disciplinary reaction, not a disciplinary action."
Kelly suggested the termination was illegal and unnecessary, and said it would be up to Haywood to decide if she wants to challenge it through the formal grievance process. If the CTA rejected that, he said a decision on sending her termination to arbitration would require a vote of the union board, and the rank and file membership.
"There are several things that didn't work," Kelly said. "And there was part human error."
But even as he conceded that, Kelly left open the possibility that the union would fight to keep Haywood's job.
"She said she dozed off," he said. "She didn't say she pulled out a pillow and went to sleep!"