CTA, union disagree on Blue Line operator's hours

March 28, 2014 (CHICAGO)

CTA Blue Line train derailment photos

Union President Robert Kelly says the operator of a train that derailed on the Blue Line Monday works on a schedule called the "extra board," which means her shift and assignments change every day.

"The week, seven days prior to this, she worked approximately 69 hours. Some may say that's a lot, but that's life on the extra board," Robert Kelly, union president, said.

But the CTA says the operator worked only 55 hours in the seven days before the accident. The CTA said the operator was off for 18 hours prior to her shift during which the incident occurred, the CTA said.

"Mr. Kelly's claims today are untruthful and irresponsible, and a clear attempt to interfere with the investigative process," a CTA news release said.

The CTA release also says the operator worked the overnight shift for four days in the week before the incident and had one day off during that the week.

"As was her right under the collective bargaining agreement, the operator requested additional work hours - two shifts that added up to 13.6 hours. Because of the Union labor agreement, the CTA was required to provide those work hours," the CTA release said.

The Blue Line O'Hare Airport station where the train derailed should reopen for service this weekend, CTA officials said. A specific day or time has not been set, but could be announced Friday afternoon.

Since Monday's derailment, CTA shuttle buses have moved passengers between the Rosemont train station and busy O'Hare International Airport.

On Thursday, crews finished their removal of the lead train car that climbed up an escalator at the O'Hare station. It had to be cut up into pieces, and those parts were relocated to a Skokie rail yard. The rest of the rain was pulled out intact.

On Friday, CTA crews are focusing on the rails, platform, escalator and stairs. Initial estimates put the damage at about $6 million.

The toll could have been much worse, as Chicago Police Officer Nial Funchion pointed out Thursday. He was doing a routine check of the station when the train jumped the tracks and came straight at him and a passenger with whom he was talking. No one was serioulsy injured.

"I got lucky," Officer Funchion said. "We all got lucky that day."

The train operator told officials she fell asleep at the controls during the early morning run.

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