National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs
Washington, DC - The National Transportation Safety Board today adopted a Special Investigation Report that examines two similar accidents last year involving Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) rapid transit trains. The Board determined that both accidents occurred after the train operators failed to comply with CTA rules designed to prevent collisions.
"Two dangerous collisions in a brief period of time that appeared to have some common elements, naturally caught our interest," said NTSB Chairman Marion C. Blakey. " We initiated this special investigation to see if there might be a systemic problem behind these accidents that we could help resolve. "
The CTA experienced the two rear-end collisions within a two-month period in 2001. The first occurred late morning on June 17 when CTA train #104, en route from downtown Chicago to O'Hare Airport on the Blue Line, collided with a standing train (#207) near the Addison Street Station. About 75 passengers were on train #104, while train #207 was carrying about 40 passengers. Eighteen passengers, an off-duty CTA employee, and both train operators received minor injuries. CTA estimated the damages at $30,000.
The second accident occurred on August 3, during the morning rush hour, when CTA Brown Line train #416, en route from Kimball Station to downtown Chicago, collided with a standing Purple line train (#505) on elevated tracks near Hill Street. Each train, made up of six passenger cars, was carrying a load of about 90 passengers per car. Police logs indicate 18 people were taken to area hospitals with minor injuries. Damages in this accident were estimated at about $136,000.
In the first accident, trains in the area were operating under a single-track detour due to maintenance work on a parallel track. The Board concluded that had the operator of train #104 stopped and contacted the control center when the signals on the train did not activate, as required by CTA operating rules, and had the control center followed existing procedures, the accident could have been prevented.
Similarly, the Board found that had the operator of train #416 in the August 3 accident complied with CTA rules and waited for a stop signal to clear before proceeding, this accident also could have been avoided.
Looking into these rule violations, Safety Board investigators found that CTA's program for enforcement of operating rules was "inadequate" and that, "consequently, rules violations, such as those related to these two accidents were not uncommon." The Board, therefore, recommended that CTA develop new procedures "to ensure that all operating personnel are complying with CTA operating rules, including speed restrictions and signal rules."
Investigators also determined that the operators in both accidents had ample time to see the train ahead and come to a safe stop but, for "unexplained reasons," failed to do so. The Board stated that "because the transit cars involved in these accidents did not have event recorders, or had recorders with only limited capabilities, insufficient information was available to provide the basis for a thorough analysis of the actions of the two operators or the performance of the trains prior to the collisions." The Board recommended that event recorders be required on new or rehabilitated trains funded by Federal Transit Administration grants.
The Board also noted that inspection manuals produced by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) provide transit agencies with little specific guidance on programs for ensuring compliance with operating rules. The Board recommended that APTA manuals be modified to include information on auditing the effectiveness of such programs.
A synopsis of the Special Investigation Report, including the findings, probable cause determinations for the two accidents, and safety recommendations can be found on the Board's web site at www.ntsb.gov. The complete report will be available in about one month.
NTSB Office of Public Affairs: (202) 314-6100
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.