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Chicago Transit faulted in derailment


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Chicago Transit faulted in derailment


The Associated Press


WASHINGTON (AP) — A seriously flawed inspection and maintenance program that failed to spot corroded, bent and broken track fasteners likely played a major role in a subway train derailment last year in Chicago that injured more than 150 people, federal regulators said Tuesday.


The National Transportation Safety Board also determined that insufficient time allowed for inspections and limited training of inspectors contributed to unsafe conditions on the Chicago Transit Authority's Blue Line.


"This accident would never have occurred if the oversight agencies involved were more diligent in exercising their responsibilities," NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker said. "We have seen far too many accidents in which the authorities responsible for overseeing the safe operation of a transportation system fail to get the job done."


The CTA said in a statement that it had already implemented many of the NTSB report's safety recommendations, including improvements to the track inspection process and completion of major infrastructure repairs.


"We are confident that the practices we have put into place address those issues raised by the NTSB investigation into last year's derailment," the statement said. "The CTA is committed to providing the safest transit system possible."


About 1,000 passengers were aboard the eight-car train when it derailed downtown during the early evening rush period on July 16, 2006, causing a smoky fire and seriously injuring six people. The others were treated for smoke inhalation.


The accident caused more than $1 million in damage.


Inspection records were particularly troubling, according to the NTSB report.


During a three-month period last year more than 80 percent of inspector records covering the area of the accident were missing, as were hundreds of records for the entire Blue Line, according to investigators.


The report cited the effects of corrosion and wear on the rails and rail fasteners, which it concluded were not properly anchoring the track. CTA inspectors failed to report defective track conditions before the accident, even though the problems were obvious, the report found.


The CTA control center was unable to immediately locate the derailed train, which delayed the emergency response and hampered the evacuation, NTSB officials said.


"It seems like a lot of people were looking the other way or not doing their jobs very well," NTSB board member Steven Chealander said.


The CTA's inspector training and qualifications did not meet those of other major transit systems in the nation, including Metra, the commuter line serving Chicago's suburbs, Amtrak and Bay Area Rapid Transit, the NTSB said.


The failures of other agencies also contributed to the accident, federal officials said.


The Regional Transportation Authority, which oversees the CTA, failed to require the CTA to correct unsafe track conditions and the Federal Transit Administration did not effectively oversee the RTA, the NTSB said.


Steve Schlickman, Regional Transportation Authority executive director, said his agency supports the report's findings. But he also pointed to state legislators' failure to pass a mass-transit budget this year, saying all transit agencies are "burdened with depleted capital budgets, thus hindering their ability to secure maintenance funding."


The NTSB issued several safety-related recommendations, starting with a call for the Federal Transit Administration to ensure that state safety oversight agencies ensure that rail agencies promptly fix problems.


Among the other recommendations were that the CTA should improve its ability to communicate with passengers and conduct evacuations during emergencies and that other cities should be urged to examine their own operations.

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