MTA chief apologizes for MARC breakdown
Apologies were flying all over today after last night's incident in which MARC Train 538 was stranded for two hours in 90-degree temperature with no air conditioning on the Penn Line. Amtrak chief Joseph Boardman issued statement of regret (next blog post down), and here is one from MTA Administrator Ralign T. Wells:
Yesterday evening the locomotive pulling MARC Train 538 failed. As is typically the case the train was full with more than 900 riders on board. The train stopped safely but without power and air conditioning, the temperature rose to uncomfortable levels. It was more than two hours before all the passengers were transferred to other MARC trains.
This circumstance was unacceptable, and on behalf of all MTA employees, I apologize for the inconvenience and discomfort you experienced.
Our understanding of the sequence of events is that the locomotive lost power near New Carrollton which triggered an automatic braking procedure. A rescue locomotive was dispatched and attempted to connect to Train 538 to pull it back to Union Station. Although the connection was successful, crews were still not able to release the brakes on the disabled train. All but 100 passengers were able to transfer to another MARC Train, and the remaining passengers transferred to a southbound train.
Early this morning I spoke with the President of Amtrak, and together we are taking immediate steps to understand the circumstances and modify procedures if necessary. One option we are considering is to provide a back-up locomotive on every Penn Line train. To further ensure the comfort and safety of riders we will review with Amtrak our policies for allowing passengers to leave a disabled train, and cars with storage areas stocked with bottled water will be allocated among the trains.
Although Amtrak and MTA personnel worked diligently from the moment the locomotive failed until the last passenger was rescued, I have received many complaints that passengers on the train received inadequate information about the situation. In addition to understanding the mechanical issues, this is a key issue that I will insist be addressed.
As MARC customers, you deserve safe, reliable service. MTA failed to deliver this service yesterday for Train 538 riders. Again, I apologize for the inconvenience you may have experienced, and commit to do better.
Along with other MTA managers, I will be riding Train 538 today to hear comments and answer questions.