Railroad Accident Report

Derailment of Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Train 519

Chicago, Illinois
October 12, 2003

NTSB Number: RAR-05-03
TIS Number PB2005-916303
Adopted November 16, 2005
PDF Document

Executive Summary

About 4:38 p.m. central daylight time on October 12, 2003, westbound Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad (Metra) train 519 derailed its two locomotives and five passenger cars as it traversed a crossover from track 1 to track 2 near Control Point 48th Street in Chicago, Illinois. The train derailed at a recorded speed of about 68 mph. The maximum authorized speed through the crossover was 10 mph. There were about 375 passengers and a crew of 3 onboard. As a result of the accident, 47 passengers were transported to eight local hospitals. Of these, 44 were treated and released, and 3 were admitted for observation. Damages from the accident exceeded $5 million.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the derailment of Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad (Metra) train 519 was the locomotive engineer’s loss of situational awareness minutes before the derailment because of his preoccupation with certain aspects of train operations that led to his failure to observe and comply with signal indications. Contributing to the accident was the lack of a positive train control system at the accident location.

In its investigation of this accident, the Safety Board examined the following safety issues:

Recommendations

As a result of its investigation of the October 12, 2003, derailment of Metra train 519 in Chicago, Illinois, the Safety Board makes safety recommendations as follows:

New Recommendations

To the Federal Railroad Administration:

Develop guidelines for locomotive engineer simulator training programs that go beyond developing basic skills and teach strategies for effectively managing multiple concurrent tasks and atypical situations. (R-05-9)

Require train crews to call out all signal indications over the radio, including clear signals, at all locations that are not equipped with automatic cab signals with enforcement or a positive train control system. (R-05-10)

To Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad (Metra):

Use locomotive engineer simulator training to go beyond developing basic skills and teach strategies for effectively managing multiple concurrent tasks and atypical situations. (R-05-11)

Require your train crews to call out all signal indications over the radio, including clear signals, at all locations that are not equipped with automatic cab signals with enforcement or a positive train control system. (R-05-12) Install a positive train control system on your commuter train routes. (R-05-13)

Recommendation Reiterated in This Report

The National Transportation Safety Board reiterates the following safety recommendation to the Federal Railroad Administration:

R-01-6
Facilitate actions necessary for development and implementation of positive train control systems that include collision avoidance, and require implementation of positive train control systems on main line tracks, establishing priority requirements for high-risk corridors such as those where commuter and intercity passenger railroads operate.