Reporting Jay Levine
(CBS) – A CTA switchman is being suspended for the runaway train that caused a two-train collision in Forest Park late last month.
Union leaders are furious, claiming the CTA is simply looking for a scapegoat in the Sept. 30 crash.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports.
Bottom line: A so-called switchman has been suspended without pay for something the National Transportation Safety Board concluded was standard operating procedure at the CTA.
“The individual in place, in my opinion, did absolutely nothing wrong,” says Robert Kelly, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308.
Thursday afternoon, the CTA fired back with a statement: “It is unfortunate that Kelly prioritizes protecting his members over efforts to ensure safety for CTA customers.”
The NTSB is still investigating the head-on crash between the runaway train and another filled with passengers at the Harlem Avenue station. Dozens were rushed to area hospitals after the crash, but few were seriously hurt.
The suspended switchman had been working in the Forest Park yard and left the train powered-up the Friday before the Monday morning crash.
But The NTSB says it stands by its initial findings that “unoccupied CTA trains are routinely left powered-up while stored.”
At the time, a spokesman for the CTA disagreed. But Kelly says the transit agency is not being truthful.
“I’m telling you, for a fact, I’ve done it,” the union official says. “I have left trains keyed up in a yard during the night.”
The CTA went on to say the Forest Park yard switchman may not be the only one disciplined.
“The CTA is in the process of pursuing discipline against a small number of employees it has determined played a role in the Blue Line incident –discipline bolstered by the facts in the case,” the agency said.
Kelly says any action taken against his members is improper because it uses their NTSB testimony, which they were assured was not a disciplinary hearing. Also, it comes more than 25 days after the incident, which is the deadline for filing charges.