Friday, November 17, 2006


According to an investigative report that aired Wednesday on CBS3, SEPTA's track record as it pertains to the safe operation of the system is under scrutiny. Imagine that...

In a CBS 3 I-Team Exclusive , how safe are you riding SEPTA's regional rail lines? It is a question that is being asked following an I-Team investigation into last summer's train crash.

Every day, 100,000 riders depend on SEPTA's regional rail to deliver them safely to their destination. But 30 people were injured on the Warminster line when two trains collided head-on.

Our exclusive investigation found that SEPTA’s safety system, designed to prevent just a crash, didn’t."Lots of broken noses, broken faces, horrible shock, massive confusion," said eyewitness, Judy Grove.

Those who were there the afternoon of Saturday, July 1st remember the frightening scene as two SEPTA trains collided head on."

Most were in total shock, they didn’t know what really happened," said Grove.

Two weeks after the crash, SEPTA fired the engineer of the southbound train, claiming he went through a red signal onto a single track, colliding head-on with a second train.

However, confidential documents obtained by the CBS 3 I-Team, indicate much deeper safety problems. In fact, testimony connected to SEPTA’s own crash investigation shows that the systems designed to prevent crashes did not work. A train breeching a red signal should have immediately set off three alarms inside SEPTA’s main control center including one with a loud shriek.

Yet at a closed door hearing into the crash - two different employees on duty that day testified they never saw or heard any warnings.

Union Official Question: "At the time it is alleged the engineer passed the signal did you witness an audible or visual alarm?"
SEPTA Employee Answer: "No"

Whether the alarms actually went off is in dispute. Another control room worker reported that ‘phantom alarms’ indicating trains are going through red signals when in fact they are not, are so common that controllers may ignore them.

Union Official Question: "Does this mean that you routinely click off, on, or ignore certain alerts because the system gives you phantom warnings?"
SEPTA Employee Answer: "Yes, we call them hiccups, burps or whatever."
Union Official Question: "Does this happen frequently?"
SEPTA Employee Answer: "In certain areas, yes mainly on a Main Line, Center City"

The Union is appealing the train engineer's dismissal. At the time, SEPTA said all of the train signals were working properly.

On Wednesday, SEPTA officials would not comment because the National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the crash. However, SEPTA reiterated that its regional rail system has an excellent safety record.

Stop me if you're shocked by these findings... This is on top of the lack of adequate security at SEPTA's rail yards, the decision by the SEPTA "Transit Police" to discontinue it's plainclothes patrols, and the Powelton Yard fiasco where a suspicious device (later found to be harmless) was stored in a locker at the rail yard for nearly a week.

Feel safer now?

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