MBTA focuses on dispatch error in deadly train crash (updated 10:00 AM)

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The MBTA is focusing on human error in the deadly crash yesterday on the Lowell Commuter Rail line in Woburn. The Herald is reporting the switch in question was THREE miles north of the accident scene. The question I have this morning is was there no way to alert MBCR officials that the train was on the wrong track for those three miles??? I have to believe there has to be another signal on the track given the distance.

from The Herald:

A mistake at a railroad dispatch center sent a speeding train loaded with passengers on a collision course with six unsuspecting track workers in Woburn yesterday, killing two before they had time to escape the barreling locomotive, officials said.

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority police are investigating why dispatchers in Somerville allowed the Boston-bound commuter train to remain on a set of tracks where a manned maintenance truck had been stationed since just after rush hour, officials said.

The Herald gives this timeline of the accident

Trains heading to Boston are supposed to see a lighted “restricted” signal similar to a stop light, overseen by a radio dispatcher in Somerville. The dispatcher then diverts the train around the work crew on the inbound track and onto the parallel, unoccupied outbound track.

Four Boston bound trains successfully made the switch yesterday. At some point after the fourth train, however, the restriction was removed, giving the engineer of the fifth train the impression it was safe to proceed.

The Boston-bound train was coming from Lowell at 50 mph when it hit the six-person crew at about 1:35 p.m. just south near Montvale Avenue in Woburn.

The work crew had been granted right-of-way on the southbound tracks after rush hour, about 9:15 a.m., and was expected to remain there until 3 p.m.

The Globe is reporting:

WOBURN — An improperly set track switch sent a commuter train barreling into a repair crew yesterday, killing two workers and injuring four others, two critically.

BADTRANSIT.COM is asking a lot of hard questions this morning.
“Where was the flagman?”, one BadTransit who tipped us off to this disaster asks. Last we heard, MBCR had cut back severely on safety for work crews. One former AMTRAK maintenance leader told BadTransit (shortly after MBCR received their 5 year $1.2 Billion contract) that safety training was cut back and flagmen were no longer being dedicated to the task, but combining their safety duty with other work.

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2 Comments

Filed under Commuter Rail, MBTA

2 responses to “MBTA focuses on dispatch error in deadly train crash (updated 10:00 AM)

  1. Anonymous

    This type of human error should not be possible in a well-designed signal system. The maintenance truck, which had wheels that allowed it to run on the tracks, should have activated the signals to show that the block of track was occupied. So it shouldn’t have been possible for a dispatcher to forget to reroute the train — the signal system should have given a red signal since the train was heading towards an occupied block. That’s the whole point of signal systems.

  2. Not to diminish the magnitude of this tragedy, but how overblown is that Herald sentence? I can’t stand the way they over-sensationalize everything, as though they think their readers are too dumb to understand the seriousness and sadness of the event without being clubbed over the head with their bombastic prose.

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