Train with passengers aboard leaves station without driver

11 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

A Driverless Train Carrying 50 People Blew Through 4 Stops After Being Tampered With.

The train passed through four subway stations with passengers aboard Thursday, making no stops as confusion turned to concern for about 50 riders. A six-car train carrying about 50 passengers left a suburban Boston transit station without a driver Thursday and went through four stations without stopping, and investigators were focusing on “operator error” as the reason why. The train began to roll forward shortly after 6 a.m., according to news reports, after the operator stepped off the train to address a routine problem, officials said. Pollack said a full-service brake and hand brake are required to be engaged before a train goes into bypass mode, and that it was unclear if both had been engaged before the operator left the train.

The MBTA, along with Transit Police, the Department of Public Utilities, and the Federal Transit Administration, are continuing to investigate the incident and the operator has been placed on administrative leave. None of the approximately 50 passengers was hurt, but the train’s operator suffered a minor injury when he was brushed by the train, apparently as it began to move at the Braintree station, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority said. While no one aboard the train was injured, Pollack referred to the incident as “an unacceptable breach of our responsibility to keep our riders safe” during a press conference Thursday afternoon.

The train’s operator was unable to start the inbound train due to a signal problem, and requested permission to put the train in bypass mode from the MBTA Operations Control Center, Pollack said. Bypass mode allows a train to depart from a station without receiving the usual signal, and requires the driver to toggle a switch on the outside of the train. “Trains are put into emergency bypass mode only when there is a signal problem,” Pollack said. “It is a procedure that is used regularly, and it is a procedure that is used safely if proper procedures are followed.” MBTA officials cleared other trains along the track before shutting off the power, stopping the runaway train between North Quincy and JFK/UMass stations. An initial investigation indicated that a safety device within the train’s cab may have been tampered with. “This train was tampered with, and it was tampered with by somebody who knew what they were doing,” Baker said during an interview on Boston Herald Radio.

During that time, MBTA officials weren’t able to communicate with passengers. “The people who were on the first car were trying to knock on the door of the conductor and that’s when we discovered that there was nobody there,” said Daly. The Boston Carmen’s Union released a statement saying “Creating extra precautions and having a second employee, such as a train attendant or guard, assigned to these trains could have avoided this incident.” Pollack says the Red Line previously had two operators on each train, but “if safety procedures are followed properly, there is no safety problem with operating trains with a single operator.” Passenger Fernanda Daly told WBZ-TV’s Beth Germano that when the lights went out on the train, riders knocked on the booth but found no conductor inside. “The whole train started going slow, the lights went off and everything just stopped down between Quincy and JFK and we stayed there for about 30 minutes,” the female passenger said. This past February, an unmanned train for the Sacramento Regional Transit District Light Rail left the yard after a mechanic bypassed the deadman safety control while troubleshooting a problem. The big difference between those examples and what happened on the MBTA Red Line train on Thursday: neither of those unmanned trains were also carrying passengers.

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