Metra apologizes for derailment that disrupted 19,000 riders

SHARE Metra apologizes for derailment that disrupted 19,000 riders

A Metra official apologized Tuesday to nearly 19,000 customers whose Monday evening commutes were disrupted by probably the most frustrating mix of delayed and canceled trains since last year’s “polar vortex.”

The comments came as investigators from the Federal Railroad Administration spent their second day at the derailment scene.

The federal team is investigating the cause of the incident, including whether it was because of track problems, signal problems or human error, spokesman Mike England said.

Sixteen trains were canceled and 34 were delayed during the Monday evening rush hour when a North Central Service train derailed on tracks also used by Milwaukee-North and Milwaukee-West trains.

“We apologize for this unfortunate incident and we know it was an inconvenient situation, and we are sincerely sorry it happened,” Metra spokesman Michael Gillis told the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday.

During last year’s epic January polar vortex, a combination of fine snow, heavy winds and fierce cold formed the recipe for massive switching problems and delays.

Monday’s derailment occurred barely a month after Metra riders saw their fares increase nearly 11 percent on average, in part to help Metra bankroll the overhaul of virtually its entire locomotive and train car fleet.

In the past, BNSF, which provides Metra service on BNSF tracks, has caught heat from Metra Board members and others for delays, including during last year’s brutal January, and even for more recent on-time performance.

But Monday’s derailment occurred on Metra tracks, with Metra trains, operated by Metra employees, during fairly normal weather.

Gillis said Metra also is investigating the matter because “we want to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Safety is very important to us.”

The North Central locomotive derailed about 3:15 p.m. Monday just north of the intersection of Wabansia and Hamlin, about 5 track miles from downtown. Gillis estimated that it affected nearly 19,000 customers.

On the Milwaukee North line, seven trains were unexpectedly canceled Monday night, and 13 were delayed. Four Milwaukee West trains were canceled and 16 delayed, and five North Central trains were canceled with five others delayed.

The delays ranged from 11 minutes to over two hours, Gillis said.

By Tuesday morning, Gillis said, only one train had to be canceled on the North Central Service. Evening rush travel was expected to return to normal.

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