Investigators focus on ‘design problem’ with braking system after Chicago train crash

CHICAGO– Federal safety officials investigating a Chicago commuter train accident that injured nearly 40 people when it collided with snow-clearing equipment are focusing on a “design problem” with the braking system.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Jennifer Homendy said the Chicago Transit Authority train was traveling at 43.3 kilometers per mile Thursday when it struck snow-clearing equipment, which was on the tracks to provide training for the winter season.

She said that based on preliminary information, she believes equipment, with six CTA employees on board, was stopped when the train struck it.

Homendy said the NTSB’s initial calculations, based on the train’s speed and other factors such as the number of passengers on board, indicate the train was designed to stop within 1,800 feet (542.5 meters) to prevent anything in its path. to avoid. But that didn’t happen and the plane crashed into snow removal equipment.

“Our team was able to determine that it was in fact a design issue. The braking distance should have been longer,” she said during a briefing with reporters on Saturday, adding that a “brand new” system on the same tracks would have had to stop 837 meters to avoid a crash.

Homendy said NTSB investigators are “very focused on the design issue and the braking and why the train did not stop.” She said they are also assessing CTA’s braking algorithm to determine if it is sufficient.

Investigators know the train’s wheels skidded as the conductor was slowing the train prior to impact and they have found thick, black “debris” on the tracks that are still being examined, she said.

Homendy said the NTSB determined there was nothing wrong with CTA’s signaling system and the way it communicated with the train, but cautioned again that this is a preliminary finding that could change.

CTA records show there were 50 other times in November when trains had to slow because other equipment stopped on the tracks ahead, none of which resulted in a crash, Homendy said.

She said investigators can’t yet say whether other CTA trains have similar braking system problems, but she emphasized that CTA’s system is safe.

‘I would take the train tonight and tomorrow. I don’t worry about safety when I take the train,” Homendy said, noting that 43,000 Americans die in car accidents every year.

Homendy said Friday that the NSTB will likely need a year to 18 months to prepare a final report with an analysis of what happened, conclusions and recommendations.

In Thursday’s accident, the CTA train was traveling south from Skokie when it rear-ended snow removal equipment on Chicago’s north side. Thirty-eight people were injured; 23 were taken to area hospitals. No one suffered life-threatening injuries, officials said.