Metra, politicians unload on Amtrak over system failure Feb. 28


Metra’s CEO asserted Tuesday that if Metra managed Union Station as a substitute of Amtrak, the error that stranded practically 100,000 commuters on Feb. 28 by no means would have occurred.

The huge commuter headache occurred when an inexperienced Amtrak supervisor broke protocol by ordering a replace in the course of the morning rush as a substitute of throughout off-peak hours.

The replace by chance shorted out communications gear, grinding rail utilization to a halt.

“We wouldn’t put ourselves in that place by doing that upkeep throughout a rush hour,” Metra CEO James Derwinski mentioned throughout a regional rail points listening to earlier than U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski at a downtown federal constructing.

“Having management of our future, in some senses, particularly on the ultimate terminal, is essential to Metra,” he mentioned.

Ninety % of passengers that transfer by way of Union Station are Metra clients, however Amtrak maintains dispatching duties on the iconic rail hub simply west of Willis Tower.

Ray Lang, Amtrak senior director of presidency affairs, mentioned that ceding management of Union Station is just not occurring.

“We’ve been very clear that we’re going to take care of possession and management of dispatching at Union Station,” Lang mentioned.

He described an ideal storm of unlucky circumstances that preceded the February rail stoppage, together with a backup system that was quickly unavailable.

“Once more, I apologize for what occurred,” he mentioned.

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Derwinksi identified to Lipinksi and several other suburban mayors who’d gathered for the listening to that Metra has a bigger workforce than Amtrak and can be higher capable of deal with on-the-ground operations within the occasion of an automatic system failure.

He additionally acknowledged that Metra has been attempting to achieve management of Union Station for a number of years.

Because the commuter disaster, the companies have begun assembly month-to-month to debate operations — an association that a number of elected officers expressed astonishment was not in place years in the past.

Lipinski, who leads a Home subcommittee that focuses on railroad infrastructure, referred to the Feb. 28 incident because the “notorious Amtrak Chicago Union Station meltdown” and mentioned he remained baffled at the way it occurred within the first place.

“This was a totally avoidable failure of epic proportions. It’s inexcusable that Amtrak was upgrading its sign system in the course of the morning rush hour, didn’t have a backup in case of failure, after which didn’t have the issue resolved till after the night rush,” he mentioned.

Lipinski additionally requested Lang why Amtrak was not open to the concept of reimbursing stranded passengers who ended up paying as a lot as $80 for an Uber experience house.

“Reimbursement is just not one thing that anybody within the trade does,” Lang mentioned.

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