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SF transit agency changes procedure after deaths

Posted: October 24, 2013 12:51 p.m.
Updated: October 24, 2013 12:51 p.m.

Bay Area Rapid Transit passengers wait to board a train at the Fruitvale BART station Tuesday in Oakland.

 

OAKLAND (AP) — Bay Area Rapid Transit officials have stopped a practice that made employee teams solely responsible for their own safety on the commuter rail line's tracks.

The move came after two BART workers were killed Saturday in an accident at a station.

Under the previous "simple approval" rules, one track worker would be designated as a lookout responsible for warning the other of an oncoming train in a work zone.

BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said Wednesday that BART had suspended the practice until federal investigators complete their inquiry into the accident. The National Transportation Safety Board is looking into the procedure as part of its probe into the workers' deaths.

The moratorium was intended to "allow time to evaluate what happened and as a precautionary measure," Trost told the San Francisco Chronicle (http://bit.ly/1abqEcR).

Under the new procedures, train operators will either have to slow down significantly or stop until work is complete. They could also be rerouted around job sites using single-tracking.

Saul Almanza, a BART safety trainer and union official, said the change gives workers more safeguards.

"Now we know that if we are going to enter the trackway, we have protection from trains entering our work areas," he told the Chronicle.

The two workers killed Saturday — Christopher Sheppard, 58, a BART track engineer, and Laurence Daniels, 66, a contract employee — were working under simple approval when they were hit by a train.

They were checking on a reported dip in the tracks.

The NTSB has said the train was being operated by a trainee and traveling 60 to 70 mph. It was on a maintenance run and was not carrying passengers due to the transit agency's strike. BART has said the train was under computer control.

The operator heard an announcement just before the accident that there were people on the tracks, according to NTSB investigator James Southworth. A horn was sounded and emergency brakes were applied.

Meanwhile, a fire erupted under a BART train in the East Bay during the Wednesday evening commute, sending smoke billowing throughout the station and forcing train passengers to evacuate. No one was injured.

The fire appears to have been caused by a piece of propulsion equipment that overheated below the tracks, Trost told the Contra Costa Times (http://bit.ly/166JGSb).

The train was cleared from the tracks and taken to a maintenance yard on Thursday.

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