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updated: 2/6/2013 6:08 PM

Metra investigating open door on rush-hour train

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  • Metra and the BNSF Railway are reviewing how a train door remained open on a crowded rush-hour train Tuesday.

    Metra and the BNSF Railway are reviewing how a train door remained open on a crowded rush-hour train Tuesday.
    Daily Herald File Photo


Commuters on Metra's BNSF Line got some unwanted chills and thrills on their way home to Naperville Tuesday evening when a train door didn't close.

The malfunctioning door stayed open for 11 minutes until a conductor managed to shut it while the train continued on its way. The express train was crowded with rush-hour passengers and left Chicago's Union Station at 6:14 p.m.

The likely cause was snow or snow buildup on the door track. On Wednesday, BNSF Railway workers inspected the door and found an exterior thermostat programmed to control a heater that keeps the doorway clear of snow and ice wasn't working.

Metra and BNSF Railway are reviewing the mishap, although the railroad is taking the lead since the line is operated and staffed by BNSF employees.

Door malfunctions either because of ice or snow or the loss of air pressure occur from time to time, but it's no excuse for putting the train in motion with one door open, experts said.

Metra's safety protocols require one crew member to be responsible for closing the doors. The employee is required to shut all doors except for his or her own, then check the train to see if everything is secure and no passengers are making a last-minute effort to board. To assist, exterior lights on each car are supposed to flash red to indicate an open door. If all is in order, the employee will get on board. close that door, then inform the engineer who waits for an indicator light to go off before moving the train.

Decisions on whether to stop a train with an equipment malfunction are made on a case-by-case basis, Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said.

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