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Union official: More training might have prevented CTA Blue Line derailment

More training could have averted a derailment on the Blue Line earlier this week, a top union transit official said. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

A CTA Blue Line derailment Wednesday that halted service for about seven hours between the O’Hare and Rosemont stations would likely have been avoided with better worker training, a top transit union official said Friday.

“I wholeheartedly believe this is a result of under training,” said Kenneth Franklin, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308.

The derailment happened about 7 p.m. Wednesday as the train approached the O’Hare terminal. Seventy-three passengers were evacuated from the train, the Chicago Fire Department said. A 39-year-old woman with a back injury was taken to Resurrection Medical Center.

Franklin said there’s an urgent need to update worker training, which he described as a “part-time system.”

“Someone should have been able to identify a problem with the switches,” Franklin said of the incident Wednesday.

Franklin said he has not spoken to the motorman on the train.

CTA spokesman Brian Steele disputed Franklin’s assertions.

“CTA rail operators receive extensive training and certifications, both when they are first hired and at multiple points throughout their careers,” Steele said in a statement. “That training includes classroom training, field training, field observations and supervisor ride-alongs. Operators also receive training for the specific line on which they operate.”

Steele added that “the operator involved in the incident has been operating Blue Line trains since 2015, and has held other positions along the Blue Line since 2013.”

The man has no prior safety violations, Steele said.

“There is no indication that infrastructure or equipment played any role in the incident. All tracks and signals in the area are functioning properly,” Steele said. “The derailment was a relatively minor one. The train was traveling 5 mph or less when the derailment occurred.”

The incident remains under investigation, Steele said.