CTA fires driver after crash

CHICAGO — Chicago transit officials have fired a train operator who acknowledged dozing off before crashing a commuter train at the O’Hare International Airport station.

The March 24 crash injured more than 30 passengers and sent the eight-car train barreling over the platform and up an escalator leading into the airport. It caused millions of dollars’ worth of damage.

The operator was fired Friday, said Chicago Transit Authority spokesman Brian Steele.

A federal investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board said last week that the driver told him she dozed off before the crash and had done so on another occasion in February when she overshot a station platform. She had been operating trains for only two months and was an extra-board employee, meaning she filled in for other drivers who called in sick or were on vacation.

Her union says she worked a lot of overtime and was exhausted.

The CTA says it does not believe her work schedule played a role, but it announced changes Friday that it says will make its scheduling guidelines some of the most stringent among the nation’s large transit operations.

“Even though we don’t know what role fatigue played ... we took a comprehensive look at our scheduling and have opted to make these changes proactively,” Steele explained.

The new rules limit train operators to a maximum of 12 hours of driving duty, including break times. The agency has also increased off-duty time between shifts to at least 10 hours, instead of eight, and now requires one day off in a seven-day period. Operators with less than a year of experience will have their weekly hours limited to 32.

Besides the possibility of driver fatigue, the NTSB is also investigating the failure of an automatic, emergency braking system to stop the train before it struck the platform.

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