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Union Tpke

Alarming Spike Seen In NYC Subway Train Operators Overrunning Red Signals

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Updated 1 hr 26 mins ago
NEW YORK (WABC) -- 
Information uncovered by 7 On Your Side Investigators shows an alarming spike in subway train operators over-running critical red lights, possibly risking derailment or collisions.

Records we obtained showed in a two-year period, suspensions of train operators for red light violations shot up from 107 in 2013 to 153 train operators suspended in 2015. That's a 43-percent spike in just two years.

"If you're not paying attention and you're distracted, that is a major problem," said Lawrence Mann, a rail safety expert.

Records show train operators running red lights across all subway lines: Lexington Avenue station, Queens Plaza station, Essex Street station, Utica Avenue, Grand Central, East 180th Street and on and on and on.

Train operators are being suspended for "overrunning red light signals" and "failing to have their train under control," a potential "danger" that put the train into "emergency braking." This keeps happening and more frequently.

"It's a number we have to watch but in and of itself it is not a trigger for an alert that says there is something wrong with New York City transit," said Transit Authority Chief Veronique Hakim.

But Lawrence Mann, who basically wrote the safety rule book for the Federal Railroad Administration, says the 43-percent spike in red light violations shows New York City subway operators are increasingly distracted.

"The reasons are several fold, but my knowledge in the rail industry is that fatigue is the major safety issue that prevails," said Mann.

This increase in red light violations parallels a big jump in the number of subway train operators working significant overtime. According to data from the Empire Center, train operators making $100,000 or more nearly doubled from 340 in 2013 to 739 the following year and remains high.

"Which indicates clearly they were working double time, which creates fatigue," said Mann.

The last major fatal red light accident occurred in 1995 when according to the NTSB, the train operator fell asleep. The MTA says since then it has increased spacing between trains and an automatic brake triggers if a train overruns a red signal.

The agency also disputes that motormen are working long hours, saying overtime is only up about 10-percent. As for the jump in red light violations, the head of subways says they're a fraction of the signals trains traverse.

"Every train traverses on average 280 signals on one trip so that number in and of itself does not set off an alarm," said TA Chief Veronique Hakim.

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I saw this report as well and I'm also very concerned.  One of the things that I've noticed is more and more (MTA) workers (in general) are using their cell phones, and I think that this obsession spills into their work schedules too.  I mean if they are constantly on their cell phones on breaks, etc., there is no way that they won't want to use it while they are working.  My uncle certainly uses his while at work, but he at least he has some discretion.  I've witnessed some operators driving while on their cell phone (i.e. ear piece), and I wouldn't be surprised if train operators do the same at some point despite the risk and them being constantly scrutinized by the general public.  

 

Regarding fatigue, there needs to be a limit on overtime.  Some guys will work as much as they can to make as much as possible, not because they necessarily need the money but because they are workaholics and/or like making as much as they can, but despite them risking their health in the process.  The (MTA) claims that they are being more fiscally responsible by keeping costs down, but overtime is through the roof, and this may be contributing to more accidents.   I find it rather odd that in the latest train crashes we've seen across the Metropolitan area that just about all of these guys have claimed that they suffer from sleep apnea, but yet they weren't previously diagnosed despite the local transit authorities stating (vehemently I might add) that they have their employees screened for such things.

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I saw this report as well and I'm also very concerned.  One of the things that I've noticed is more and more (MTA) workers (in general) are using their cell phones, and I think that this obsession spills into their work schedules too.  I mean if they are constantly on their cell phones on breaks, etc., there is no way that they won't want to use it while they are working.  My uncle certainly uses his while at work, but he at least he has some discretion.  I've witnessed some operators driving while on their cell phone (i.e. ear piece), and I wouldn't be surprised if train operators do the same at some point despite the risk and them being constantly scrutinized by the general public.  

 

Regarding fatigue, there needs to be a limit on overtime.  Some guys will work as much as they can to make as much as possible, not because they necessarily need the money but because they are workaholics and/or like making as much as they can, but despite them risking their health in the process.  The (MTA) claims that they are being more fiscally responsible by keeping costs down, but overtime is through the roof, and this may be contributing to more accidents.   I find it rather odd that in the latest train crashes we've seen across the Metropolitan area that just about all of these guys have claimed that they suffer from sleep apnea, but yet they weren't previously diagnosed despite the local transit authorities stating (vehemently I might add) that they have their employees screened for such things.

These are tempestuous waters man. I'm not casting doubts on your claims but it's best to be armed with more facts than 2nd hand knowledge, which your post has an abundance of.

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These are tempestuous waters man. I'm not casting doubts on your claims but it's best to be armed with more facts than 2nd hand knowledge, which your post has an abundance of.

 

Also, there's misinformation in that last sentence. The operators didn't claim to have sleep apnea; they were diagnosed after the fact...

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Also, there's misinformation in that last sentence. The operators didn't claim to have sleep apnea; they were diagnosed after the fact...

Don't blame me... Blame the news outlets if the information isn't correct, but you want proof... Here it is... 

 

 

 

The engineer of the NJ Transit train that killed one woman and injured more than 100 others is claiming that he has a sleep disorder.
 

 

Source: http://patch.com/new-jersey/hoboken/hoboken-train-crash-engineer-had-sleep-apnea-attorney-says

 

These are tempestuous waters man. I'm not casting doubts on your claims but it's best to be armed with more facts than 2nd hand knowledge, which your post has an abundance of.

What facts have I left out?  Overtime at the (MTA) is on the rise.  

 

 

Overtime at the MTA was on the rise last year — with more than 400 workers whose extra pay topped their regular salaries, according to payroll records analyzed by the Empire Center.

The MTA shelled out $876 million in overtime last year, an 11% increase from the $792 million paid to workers in 2014.

 

Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/400-mta-workers-earned-salary-overtime-article-1.2559234

 

It's only natural to conclude that if you're working tons of overtime, you have to be cutting corners somewhere...  My uncle has been a B/O with the (MTA) for over twenty years, and he does tons of overtime.  I don't think he does as much as some guys do, but he certainly gets his hours in.  Of course plenty of guys don't, but others will take any hours they can get.

 

Since you disagree with my conclusions, which are more than reasonable given the circumstances (I mean this isn't rocket science), what do you think is the cause for so many overrunning of red signals? My thinking is it can only be but so many reasons: fatigue, inexperienced workers, overworked workers or distracted workers.

 

Even the (MTA) has admitted that they have a lot of new workers coming in due to others retiring.

Edited by Via Garibaldi 8

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Ok then. Didn't know that about the Hoboken engineer...

Remember... I've had two trains derail in my neighborhood, so this is something (train safety) that I've followed very closely. 

Edited by Via Garibaldi 8

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If a subway train runs past a red signal, it'll trigger a tripper that will make the train stop, which is likely why operators are getting suspended. There's only a few ways where a train can run past a red signal, and that's by doing it manually. They can't blatantly bypass the red signal.

With all of these timers installed throughout the system, it's almost impossible to freely run past a red signal without being forced to stop by the tripper.

Edited by Cait Sith
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With all of these timers installed throughout the system, it's almost impossible to freely run past a red signal without being forced to stop by the tripper.

You could look at this issue the other way: the problem is the proliferation of timers and trippers, not the train operators.

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You could look at this issue the other way: the problem is the proliferation of timers and trippers, not the train operators.

Subway operations are apple to oranges with to Railroad's. I'm not sure I understand operators operate within the rules confines and limits of the system. Are you saying there not trained correctly?

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It's only natural to conclude that if you're working tons of overtime, you have to be cutting corners somewhere...  My uncle has been a B/O with the (MTA) for over twenty years, and he does tons of overtime.  I don't think he does as much as some guys do, but he certainly gets his hours in.  Of course plenty of guys don't, but others will take any hours they can get.

 

Since you disagree with my conclusions, which are more than reasonable given the circumstances (I mean this isn't rocket science), what do you think is the cause for so many overrunning of red signals? My thinking is it can only be but so many reasons: fatigue, inexperienced workers, overworked workers or distracted workers.

 

Even the (MTA) has admitted that they have a lot of new workers coming in due to others retiring.

I don't necessarily disagree with your conclusions, Mr. Detective ;) You were stating them basically from generalization and, possibly, personal bias? "One of the things that I've noticed is more and more (MTA) workers (in general) are using their cell phones, and I think that this obsession spills into their work schedules too." Your statement here is based on personal observation, not fact, which then lead you to conclude that if the few you observed are doing this then many others must be too. The one 'fact' you have (until you posted links in your followup) again originated from a personal nature: "I mean if they are constantly on their cell phones on breaks, etc., there is no way that they won't want to use it while they are working.  My uncle certainly uses his while at work, but he at least he has some discretion." Again, you draw from this that many workers certainly must be doing the same.

 

I don't know if MTA tests its operators for sleep deprivation. If they do, there might be a case study publicly available. Or maybe one (or several) has been done but the public doesn't have access.

 

Still, your concerns have merit. I'll agree to that. I share your concerns.

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Regardless of how many back-ups are in place, I don't see how that excuses them from running red signals.  That attitude attempts to absolve them of any wrongdoing, and running red signals should not be tolerated.  Given that there are so many timers in the system, it seems as if that would be even more of a reason for them not to run red signals in the first place. I have to say that I'm shocked by this.  I mean subway service already crawls most of the time due to signals as it is (or at least that's what we're told <_<).  The idea that they're blowing past them and trains are still that slow is rather ironic.

 

You could look at this issue the other way: the problem is the proliferation of timers and trippers, not the train operators.

lol... 

Edited by Via Garibaldi 8
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Don't blame me... Blame the news outlets if the information isn't correct, but you want proof... Here it is... 

 

 

Source: http://patch.com/new-jersey/hoboken/hoboken-train-crash-engineer-had-sleep-apnea-attorney-says

 

What facts have I left out?  Overtime at the (MTA) is on the rise.  

 

 

Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/400-mta-workers-earned-salary-overtime-article-1.2559234

 

It's only natural to conclude that if you're working tons of overtime, you have to be cutting corners somewhere...  My uncle has been a B/O with the (MTA) for over twenty years, and he does tons of overtime.  I don't think he does as much as some guys do, but he certainly gets his hours in.  Of course plenty of guys don't, but others will take any hours they can get.

 

Since you disagree with my conclusions, which are more than reasonable given the circumstances (I mean this isn't rocket science), what do you think is the cause for so many overrunning of red signals? My thinking is it can only be but so many reasons: fatigue, inexperienced workers, overworked workers or distracted workers.

 

Even the (MTA) has admitted that they have a lot of new workers coming in due to others retiring.

On the contrary, there is quite a bit of science and math involved the overall dynamics of Class 1 and 2 railroads let's focus on 1 it's quite a big difference between Rapid transit. Tripper based block signaling to be exact(TPS). Fatigue and Inexperience are factors you're correct but then add the buffer acknowledgment time before safety systems kick in with overspeeding and radio control after running signals. None of that is a factor on the subway or other system using this type of train protection that amplifies the equation quite a bit and has to be taken into account it's near instant and triggered by a physical hardware.

Edited by RailRunRob

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I don't necessarily disagree with your conclusions, Mr. Detective ;) You were stating them basically from generalization and, possibly, personal bias? "One of the things that I've noticed is more and more (MTA) workers (in general) are using their cell phones, and I think that this obsession spills into their work schedules too." Your statement here is based on personal observation, not fact, which then lead you to conclude that if the few you observed are doing this then many others must be too. The one 'fact' you have (until you posted links in your followup) again originated from a personal nature: "I mean if they are constantly on their cell phones on breaks, etc., there is no way that they won't want to use it while they are working.  My uncle certainly uses his while at work, but he at least he has some discretion." Again, you draw from this that many workers certainly must be doing the same.

 

I don't know if MTA tests its operators for sleep deprivation. If they do, there might be a case study publicly available. Or maybe one (or several) has been done but the public doesn't have access.

 

Still, your concerns have merit. I'll agree to that. I share your concerns.

Let me say that I don't go around purposely looking, but this is just what I observe as a daily rider of the system, and quite frankly it's troubling.  Now you're right, we have many outstanding (MTA) workers transporting us around.  I think the issue is that it only takes a few bad apples to create a real problem and that sticks with you as a commuter.   Nevertheless, I would be curious to know what the (MTA) finds regarding this situation (not that they would be willing to share it with the general public).  At the end of the day, the (MTA) will always have these sorts of problems.  It is simply too big and there are too many hands in the pot.

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Or...perhaps train crews use their cell phones so much during breaks so that they catch up on all needed communications so that they won't
"be tempted" to use them while performing their job duties.

 

Overtime has nothing to do with signal overruns. Transit has hired over 1500 Train Operators in the last 5 years. There are an abundance of new employees, who often make mistakes at greater rates.

 

There is less "recovery time" between trips.

There are more trips so looking at a "percentage increase in overrun incidents" or "percentage increase in discipline" without looking at the percentage increase of service, or the percentage of overruns that are leading to suspensions is incomplete reporting. Perhaps suspensions are up because the issue has been taken more seriously lately, so it is actually not the issue the media is trying to make it be?

 

Accurate journalism would have done more. This article, and most of the comments here, are seemingly endless speculation, straw man arguments, comparisons to systems that have nothing in common with NYCT, and broad generalizations of limited experiences by individuals about something they clearly don't understand.

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Or...perhaps train crews use their cell phones so much during breaks so that they catch up on all needed communications so that they won't

"be tempted" to use them while performing their job duties.

 

Overtime has nothing to do with signal overruns. Transit has hired over 1500 Train Operators in the last 5 years. There are an abundance of new employees, who often make mistakes at greater rates.

 

There is less "recovery time" between trips.

 

There are more trips so looking at a "percentage increase in overrun incidents" or "percentage increase in discipline" without looking at the percentage increase of service, or the percentage of overruns that are leading to suspensions is incomplete reporting. Perhaps suspensions are up because the issue has been taken more seriously lately, so it is actually not the issue the media is trying to make it be?

 

Accurate journalism would have done more. This article, and most of the comments here, are seemingly endless speculation, straw man arguments, comparisons to systems that have nothing in common with NYCT, and broad generalizations of limited experiences by individuals about something they clearly don't understand.

Since there is so much speculation going on, let's run with what you've stated and assume that the guys are on their best behavior and aren't distracted with their cell phones. You seem to be implying that workers are being overworked, and if that's the case then why isn't the union speaking up? Overworked employees are not only a danger to themselves but to the passengers as well.

 

Either way something doesn't add up. If all of these newbies are coming in I would think they would want to earn more than their base salary, which would mean long hours... Let's face it. Living here isn't so cheap these days.

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Since there is so much speculation going on, let's run with what you've stated and assume that the guys are on their best behavior and aren't distracted with their cell phones. You seem to be implying that workers are being overworked, and if that's the case then why isn't the union speaking up? Overworked employees are not only a danger to themselves but to the passengers as well.

 

Either way something doesn't add up. If all of these newbies are coming in I would think they would want to earn more than their base salary, which would mean long hours... Let's face it. Living here isn't so cheap these days.

 

Except overtime is not a one way street and it is often not recommended for new employees to work a lot of overtime until they have learned the ins and outs of the job and reinforced that knowledge through experience.

 

Much of the overtime has been Hurricane Sandy repair related. Plus, as I said, service levels are back up to where they were pre Jay Walder cuts (in some cases even higher than the pre-recession peak), so that causes delays due to interlining, crowding, and congestion. Delays tend to not only snowball, but affect multiple lines. If this occurs on a crew's final trip, it can trigger unscheduled overtime.

 

Also, more new employees also means more senior employees getting paid for the extra work of training a student. Again, more overtime.

Edited by SubwayGuy
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Or...perhaps train crews use their cell phones so much during breaks so that they catch up on all needed communications so that they won't

"be tempted" to use them while performing their job duties.

 

Overtime has nothing to do with signal overruns. Transit has hired over 1500 Train Operators in the last 5 years. There are an abundance of new employees, who often make mistakes at greater rates.

 

There is less "recovery time" between trips.

There are more trips so looking at a "percentage increase in overrun incidents" or "percentage increase in discipline" without looking at the percentage increase of service, or the percentage of overruns that are leading to suspensions is incomplete reporting. Perhaps suspensions are up because the issue has been taken more seriously lately, so it is actually not the issue the media is trying to make it be?

 

Accurate journalism would have done more. This article, and most of the comments here, are seemingly endless speculation, straw man arguments, comparisons to systems that have nothing in common with NYCT, and broad generalizations of limited experiences by individuals about something they clearly don't understand.

See CBS blitz story about NJT "speeding" past stations....

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I bet if you did a statistical analysis the percentage of operators getting tripped by the stoparm is directly proportional to the percentage of operators with less than, say, 36mo experience on the Job. 

 

Service levels are up, more operators hired, green employees more likely to make errors, system in place to catch the errors. 

 

VG8: The "I see them using phones on break so they must be using phones at the operating position" argument is remarkably faulty logic, and you're intelligent enough to know that. 

 

I also believe this entire discussion has overlooked something fundamental. 

 

NYCT has an old, but very reliable signal enforcement system with the stoparm/tripper configuration. There is, however, no leeway here. One inch past the line, and the stoparm strikes the tripper. The yellow paint on the stoparm shows a "strike mark", and everyone knows someone got tripped. 

 

So, any number of these incidents could be operators attempting to stop the train before the signal and missing the mark. Which, one would express to be proportional with experience. I've never operated a subway, or an electric MU like that, but, I can say with confidence they don't stop on a dime, and minor miscalculations can happen even with experience. (My experience is limited to a diesel road switcher a handful of times, a steam loco once, and the tangentially related experience of captaining boats) 

 

You've got a lot of mass with a lot of inertia, various different braking systems, the possibility of wheelslip in the open cut sections due to leaf gunk, I bet the 68's and earlier have variable braking response with pad age. 

 

I don't know what the penalty schedule is, but *if I had to guess* I would imagine if you have a strike mark without an incredibly good explanation (like a signal flashing) you'd wind up with a suspension. 

 

So - before we say this is the result of some distracted, sleep deprived cadre of bad apples amongst the train operator corps, remember we're not automatically talking about reckless driving here. 

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I bet if you did a statistical analysis the percentage of operators getting tripped by the stoparm is directly proportional to the percentage of operators with less than, say, 36mo experience on the Job. 

 

Service levels are up, more operators hired, green employees more likely to make errors, system in place to catch the errors. 

 

VG8: The "I see them using phones on break so they must be using phones at the operating position" argument is remarkably faulty logic, and you're intelligent enough to know that. 

 

I also believe this entire discussion has overlooked something fundamental. 

 

NYCT has an old, but very reliable signal enforcement system with the stoparm/tripper configuration. There is, however, no leeway here. One inch past the line, and the stoparm strikes the tripper. The yellow paint on the stoparm shows a "strike mark", and everyone knows someone got tripped. 

 

So, any number of these incidents could be operators attempting to stop the train before the signal and missing the mark. Which, one would express to be proportional with experience. I've never operated a subway, or an electric MU like that, but, I can say with confidence they don't stop on a dime, and minor miscalculations can happen even with experience. (My experience is limited to a diesel road switcher a handful of times, a steam loco once, and the tangentially related experience of captaining boats) 

 

You've got a lot of mass with a lot of inertia, various different braking systems, the possibility of wheelslip in the open cut sections due to leaf gunk, I bet the 68's and earlier have variable braking response with pad age. 

 

I don't know what the penalty schedule is, but *if I had to guess* I would imagine if you have a strike mark without an incredibly good explanation (like a signal flashing) you'd wind up with a suspension. 

 

So - before we say this is the result of some distracted, sleep deprived cadre of bad apples amongst the train operator corps, remember we're not automatically talking about reckless driving here. 

I don't think people want the fact's nowadays. It wasn't missed in the conversation a few people tried to present the points including myself and I've done work design/CAD on rolling stock from the MTR to the MTA. Hardware from block based signaling (TPS), TBL to ATO. Knowing a type train, when the station opened or how to get from A to B doesn't mean you understand how it was put together or how it fully works. You have to be in it. There are a few folks here that do understand or at the very least are asking the right questions to learn. But you're correct you can't compare the Subway to many other operations. I can talk until I'm blue in the face I don't it would matter to some. Reserve your energy and time you can't it back.

Edited by RailRunRob
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VG8: The "I see them using phones on break so they must be using phones at the operating position" argument is remarkably faulty logic, and you're intelligent enough to know that. 

 

lol... We're talking about the (MTA), which has a history of being untruthful.  I have no problem believing the worst until I see otherwise. 

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lol... We're talking about the (MTA), which has a history of being untruthful.  I have no problem believing the worst until I see otherwise.

 

You may believe whatever you like. 

 

But once again, the faulty logic is back: Regardless of whether or not the agency has a track record of dishonesty - linking the credibility of individual train operators regarding adherence to the a rather cardinal rule to the credibility of the agency management or the agency's public messaging is not a sound correlation. 

 

I know I'm not going to change your mind, but I call em as I see em :-D

 

I don't think people want the fact's nowadays. It wasn't missed in the conversation a few people tried to present the points including myself and I've done work design/CAD on rolling stock from the MTR to the MTA. Hardware from block based signaling (TPS), TBL to ATO. Knowing a type train, when the station opened or how to get from A to B doesn't mean you understand how it was put together or how it fully works. You have to be in it. There are a few folks here that do understand or at the very least are asking the right questions to learn. But you're correct you can't compare the Subway to many other operations. I can talk until I'm blue in the face I don't it would matter to some. Reserve your energy and time you can't it back.

I know what you mean about the aversion to facts held by many. 

 

Mea culpa that I missed that the point was raised - I guess I skimmed the thread too quickly. 

 

And I know that rational explanations will generally - if not universally - do little to sway minds that have been made up in deference or in absentia to facts, but for reasons that elude me, I still find it time well spent. 

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Except overtime is not a one way street and it is often not recommended for new employees to work a lot of overtime until they have learned the ins and outs of the job and reinforced that knowledge through experience.

 

Much of the overtime has been Hurricane Sandy repair related. Plus, as I said, service levels are back up to where they were pre Jay Walder cuts (in some cases even higher than the pre-recession peak), so that causes delays due to interlining, crowding, and congestion. Delays tend to not only snowball, but affect multiple lines. If this occurs on a crew's final trip, it can trigger unscheduled overtime.

 

Also, more new employees also means more senior employees getting paid for the extra work of training a student. Again, more overtime.

THANK YOU subway guy geez I tell you some of these arm chair RTO Folks make me laugh.. Hey maybe some of them can apply and take the test come down here first hand...

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THANK YOU subway guy geez I tell you some of these arm chair RTO Folks make me laugh.. Hey maybe some of them can apply and take the test come down here first hand...

Nah, you can have at it.   :D

 

 

You may believe whatever you like. 

 

But once again, the faulty logic is back: Regardless of whether or not the agency has a track record of dishonesty - linking the credibility of individual train operators regarding adherence to the a rather cardinal rule to the credibility of the agency management or the agency's public messaging is not a sound correlation. 

 

I know I'm not going to change your mind, but I call em as I see em :-D

You sure won't... Once a crook always a crook in my book.  

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