FTA orders ‘safety standdown’ at T for disabled trains

Work halted until employees review 3 recent incidents

THE FEDERAL Transit Administration ordered an “immediate safety standdown” at the MBTA, requiring all workers who operate or secure disabled transit vehicles to halt their work until they participate in a briefing where they review the causes of three runaway train incidents that occurred in May and July.

The letter ordering the standdown was dated Thursday but the T did not make it public until Friday.

The letter was written by Joe DeLorenzo, associate administrator and chief safety officer at the FTA, who said the standdown was warranted because of “continued failure to sufficiently prevent unintended and controlled train movements by disabled trains.” DeLorenzo said the FTA has determined that “a combination of unsafe conditions and practices exist such that there is a substantial risk of death or personal injury.”

The safety briefings can start at midnight tonight and will continue until every worker has participated. The FTA asked for updates on progress every 24 hours, including sign-in sheets showing the participation of employees. Updates were also required five and 10 days out on the development of checklists and inspection procedures designed to prevent future incidents.

DeLorenzo said the FTA was moved to act after incidents on May 26, May 30, and most recently on Monday. The first incident was contained within the Cabot Yard in Dorchester while the other two incidents involved trains that made it on to the mainline tracks in and around Braintree station.

“While no injuries have resulted from the recent incidents, uncontrolled train movements, especially on the mainline, are exceptionally dangerous, can result in collision or derailment, and pose substantial risk of injury or death to employees in the path of the trains,” DeLorenzo said.

The MBTA issued a statement on Friday saying it shared the FTA’s concerns and would immediately begin taking steps to comply with the agency’s orders.

The FTA launched its inspection of safety procedures at the MBTA in April and in June issued a series of safety directives intended to address immediate safety issues. One of the directives dealt with runaway train incidents at MBTA yards.

The most recent incident at Braintree Station apparently prompted the safety standdown. DeLorenzo indicated the T has work to do.

“Safety is our top priority at the US Department of Transportation and FTA,” DeLorenzo said in his letter. “To that end, FTA will continue to work with the MBTA to make progress in setting a foundation for safety.”