Assurances for rail riders; Accident: Light rail crash is unsettling, so MTA must assure passengers that system is sound.


IT could take a long time to learn why a light rail train crashed into a barrier at its Baltimore-Washington International Airport terminal, but passengers need to know now that such an accident won't reoccur.

The National Transportation Safety Board has found no evidence so far of mechanical failure. The federal agency has reported that the train's brakes and signals were functioning properly. But as it does with airline accidents, the agency could take a year before issuing its final report.

The possibility of human error is being examined as officials await drug and alcohol test results.

Passengers, meanwhile, can take solace in safety provisions already in place.

The MTA conducts random drug tests of employees who operate buses and rail vehicles and tests employees when it has reasonable suspicion of substance use, as required by federal law. The transit agency must take severe action against employees who endanger passengers.

The MTA's policy requires employees to check brakes and signals daily before trains go onto the track. Previous light rail accidents have involved the vehicles hitting pedestrians at crossings. That's happened five times since the system went into operation in 1992. An experimental crossing in Timonium to reduce pedestrian accidents has yielded good initial results and may be duplicated throughout the system.

Rail transit has not been dangerous for passengers, but Sunday's accident requires the MTA to assure patrons that vehicles and operators are in top form.

Pub Date: 2/18/00

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