Amtrak CEO says 'human error' caused signal problems that snarled traffic at Chicago Union Station (UPDATED)

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Metra and Amtrak trains move into Chicago Union Station in March 2017. Traffic in and out of Union Station was snarled for much of Thursday by Amtrak signal issues.
TRAINS: David Lassen

CHICAGO — Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson has offered an explanation and an apology for signal problems at Chicago Union Station that snarled Metra commuter service for much of Thursday.

In a statement issued Friday, Anderson says the "root cause" of the signal failure was “human error in the process of deploying a server upgrade in our technology facility that supports our dispatch control system at Chicago Union Station. We failed to provide the service that Amtrak customers, Metra commuters and the general public expect of us.

“We own the system. We will fix this problem. More importantly, we are taking steps to improve our operations in Chicago, which include appointing a veteran Amtrak executive to make sure we deliver the performance our stakeholders expect of us.

“In the meantime, we once again apologize to Metra and to everyone who was impacted by yesterday’s disrupted service.”

Metra was reporting normal service during Friday morning’s rush hour, after reporting at 9 p.m. Thursday that signal operations, which began malfunctioning Thursday morning, had been restored.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said communications issues forced crews to shift from automated to manual control of signals and switches, “which leads to delays.

“In my time here, which is now about 18 years, I have not seen a signal control system outage of this duration,” Magliari told a Thursday afternoon media briefing, according to the suburban Chicago newspaper, the Daily Herald. “We want to make sure that we apologize to our customers, to Metra’s customers, and others for the inconvenience.”

The Herald reports that the problem began about 8:35 a.m., with trains between Union Station and Western Avenue briefly halted about an hour later. Some commuters said they experienced delays nearing three hours.

All evening Metra trains experienced delays of “several hours,” the newspaper reported. Trains on Metra’s BNSF line — the system’s busiest in terms of ridership — operated on a “load-and-go” basis, with trains departing when full and making all stops.

— Updated at 11:30 a.m. CST on March 1 to include statement from Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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