CHICAGO (CBS) — A Metra train that burst into flames at Union Station Thursday was due for repairs but got passed over because of money, and there are more trains overdue for repairs.
It’s still not clear what caused the fire. Metra officials will only call it a mechanical issue.
It’s a train that had already gone through rehab once and was up for more.
Now the concern is other trains at risk.
About 100 passengers were evacuated from 27-year-old the train Thursday, and no one was injured.
The train was purchased in 1992 and refurbished in 2003. It was due for repairs in 2019.
A Metra spokesperson said that becaues the train had no history of mechanical issues, it wasn’t prioritized for that repair, like other trains that are overdue because of budget constraints.
“The fact we can’t buy new locomotives due to budget constraints paves the way for these kind of problems,” said nationally recognized transit expert Joseph Schwieterman. “It is a bit of a wake up call that we need to get this equipment into first class shape. We’ve had to kick the can on these things, and it just sets a bad example and scares people from using transit. We don’t need these problems.”
Chicago mass transit agencies, CTA, Metra, and Pace, haven’t received a dime in state help for hardware in a decade.
But they will soon.
The $45 billion capital construction plan allocates $4 billion for Chicago transit. Metra is expected to see $1.6 billion of that.
The agency wouldn’t say where it would spend its money first, but last March the transit agency said it was ordering 200 new rail cars “with option to buy 200 more” if funding is available.
Metra officials say they are now determining if the burned locomotive is salvageable.
“It’s time to recognize that we have to make the plunge and get some newer equipment,” Schweiterman said.
He did emphasize that he believes the system is safe, just in need of those updates.