Federal Metra investigation begins after separate complaints

A federal investigation into Metra's operations has begun following three separate complaints that have raised red flags about safety.
Friday, June 06, 2014
A federal investigation into Metra's operations has begun following three separate complaints that have raised red flags about safety.

Those three incidents happened within days of each other, one of them occurring a little bit south of the 35th Street station. The train was apparently speeding.

It happened last Monday morning on an inbound Rock Island train.

"Everyone screamed on the train when it was going so fast. It leaned and scared everyone," said Metra rider Pat Boskey.

Boskey says her son was on the train, which was nearing 35th Street, the jolt shaking Ed Ringmeier awake.

"It was like a jerk. That was it, you know, like whoa. That was it," he said.

"It could have been horrible had that train tipped over and hurt a lot of people," Boskey said.

Metra has suspended the train's engineer and federal officials are now investigating whether the train was going too fast. The incident was one of three within a week that have caused alarm, prompting a top-to-bottom, 45-day safety review of Metra's operations.

"Now it's time for us to just kind of review deeper causation," said Joseph Szabo, Federal Railroad Administration. "What is the root cause behind what would appear to be a pattern?"

In addition to the incident last Monday, which involved tilting on a Rock Island train, officials are investigating a similar incident six days earlier on another Rock Island train, as well a report of a Metra Electric train on June 3 going through a red signal.

Metra says it reported all three incidents to federal officials and the relieved the engineers of the three trains of their duties pending an investigation.

"Whenever you have something, you look at is this a systemic problem? Is it more of an anomaly? And from everything that we're looking at, it's more of an anomaly. It doesn't make it less important. It's very, very important," said Metra CEO Don Orseno.

"Historically, this has been a very safe railroad," Szabo said. "And so we owe it to the public to ensure that that safety standard continues to be met."

No one was injured in those three incidents. Metra's CEO says the agency immediately reported them to federal regulators and is cooperating fully in this 45-day review.

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