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Union Station signal failure caused by ‘human error’: Amtrak

Union Station's Great Hall was filled with waiting commuters Feb. 28. Signal problems that halted Amtrak and Metra trains at Union Station in the morning also are likely to cause major delays for people headed home. | Nader Issa/Sun-Times

The Amtrak computer failure that caused extensive delays at Union Station Thursday was caused, in part, by a worker falling on a circuit board, according to U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin.

In a statement Friday morning, Amtrak President and CEO Richard Anderson said the failure was caused by “human error in the process of deploying a server upgrade in our technology facility that supports our dispatch control system at Chicago Union Station.”

Durbin said in a statement Friday that he had spoken to Anderson, who told him that Amtrak “made a series of errors” that caused the disruption.

“The most important error they made was to decide to do a server upgrade to their computers during peak hours of service,” Durbin said. “This should be done in the middle of the night when only a handful of trains are running. Along with that, a worker fell on a circuit board, which turned off the computers and lead to the interruption of service that went on all day long.”

The signal problems halted all train movement at Union Station for more than an hour Thursday morning. Even after trains were moving again, the failure caused massive delays on all Metra lines operating out of Union Station and left thousands of people stranded for hours during Thursday’s evening commute.

“We own the system,” Anderson said. “We will fix this problem. More importantly, we are taking steps to improve our operations in Chicago, which include appointing a veteran Amtrak executive to make sure we deliver the performance our stakeholders expect of us.”

“In the meantime, we once again apologize to Metra and to everyone who was impacted by yesterday’s disrupted service.”