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updated: 4/4/2014 5:08 PM

CTA fires train operator in Blue Line crash, revises scheduling

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  • The investigation into a CTA Blue Line crash at O'Hare Station continues.

      The investigation into a CTA Blue Line crash at O'Hare Station continues.
    courtesy of Milka Overton

 
 

The woman who fell asleep at the controls of a CTA Blue Line train that catapulted into an escalator March 24 was fired Friday, the agency confirmed.

It was the second time the operator, Brittney Haywood, had dozed off while driving a train, National Transportation Safety Board investigators said.

Officials with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308 said a culture of overtime at the agency put the worker in a difficult position. CTA officials disputed that claim, but they announced new scheduling rules Friday aimed at increasing rest time between shifts.

Haywood was hired in April 2013, NTSB investigators said, and qualified to run trains in January. When the crash occurred at O'Hare, she had 60 days of experience driving trains.

CTA spokesman Brian Steele said the train operator did not show up to a disciplinary hearing earlier this week or respond to a notice requiring her to contact the agency by Friday morning. The CTA's agreement with the ATU allows employees to be fired for "two serious safety violations in a three-month period," Steele said.

But ATU President Robert Kelly said last week the operator's call-in status had caused her to work abnormal hours and made fatigue a factor. The union will fight any termination, Kelly told The Associated Press.

Steele stated that "there is nothing about the operator's work schedule that suggests fatigue should have been a factor. Specifically, the operator worked 55.7 hours in the seven days prior to the incident."

Friday, the CTA revised its scheduling rules for train operators, including increasing the minimum rest time between shifts from eight to 10 hours and requiring employees to take at least one day off in any seven-day period.

"Our new changes are actually going to slightly exceed (national) standards," Steele said.

Union officials could not be reached for comment Friday.

The NTSB is scrutinizing CTA policies and procedures as well as examining video and physical evidence that would show mechanical or equipment failures that played a role in the crash at O'Hare.

One concern is whether a device that triggered the emergency braking system was placed too close to a bumper at the end of the tracks. The train smacked into the bumper and the head car flew onto the escalator.

Thirty-two people were treated at local hospitals with injuries and three lawsuits have resulted from the accident.

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