Senator says worker's fall onto circuit board caused Union Station signal outage

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Thursday's signal outage at Chicago Union Station was reportedly caused by a worker falling on a circuit board during an equipment upgrade, according to a U.S. Senator.
TRAINS: David Lassen

CHICAGO — That “human error” that snarled Metra’s Thursday evening commute? It wasn’t just someone flicking the wrong switch or a programming mistake.

U.S. Sen Dick Durban (D-Ill.) says the problem that disrupted signal systems at Chicago Union Station was caused when “a worker fell on a circuit board, which turned off the computers and led to the interruption of service that went on all day long.” Durbin learned this, the Daily Herald reports, when he spoke with Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson about the incident.

Anderson issued a statement Friday saying human error had caused the problems that disrupted traffic in and out of Union Station for about 12 hours, apologizing for the problem and promising to appoint “a veteran Amtrak executive” to improve performance in Chicago. [See “Amtrak CEO says ‘human error’ caused signal problems that snarled traffic at Chicago Union Station,” Trains News Wire, March 1, 2019.]

Durbin said the fall wasn’t the only problem that led to the service disruption.

“The most important error they made was to decide to do a server upgrade to their computers during peak hours of service. This should be done in the middle of the night when only a handful of trains are running.”

Durbin wasn’t the only member of the Illinois congressional delegation concerned about Thursday’s incident. Congressman Dan Lipinski, a Democrat whose district includes a number of Metra-served communities southwest of Chicago, issued a statement saying Amtrak’s apology “is only a start. There are many questions Amtrak needs to answer and then fixes need to be made as soon as possible.” Lipinski, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Rail, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, said he will meet with Anderson next week.

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