BOSTON (WHDH) – Investigators have so far found “no evidence” that vehicle or infrastructure problems played a role in a collision between two Green Line trains Wednesday night and are investigating possible human error but have yet to determine the cause of the incident determine, MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said Thursday.
After several stops in downtown Boston remained offline during the morning rush to allow crews to put trains back on the rails and conduct repair work, Blue Line trains resumed service to the Government Center just before 2 p.m. Thursday. Trolleys returned to the Green Line between North Station and Park Street around the same time, albeit with delays.
Poftak, who after another incident said the T was safe and he and his family ride it regularly, told reporters the agency “ensured the tracks were thoroughly inspected” before subway service resumed.
“So far we have no evidence that there has been a problem with anything related to the rolling stock or anything related to the rail infrastructure, including the tracks,” Poftak said.
The GM called human error “one of the factors we are investigating” and stressed that investigations into the cause of the crash are ongoing.
“I hesitate to draw conclusions. I’ve seen situations in the past where, once all the facts are known, sometimes what you thought was obvious isn’t the case, but that’s one of the things we look at very closely,” Poftak said of Humanes Fail.
At around 9:20 p.m. Wednesday, a Green Line train with 20 to 25 passengers on board, traveling westbound near the Government Center station, struck another train with only two T operators on board, which was heading into the tracks merged to become operational.
Signals in that area under normal conditions tell train drivers when to move on, Poftak said. As of Thursday afternoon, Poftak said investigators had “currently found no evidence that the signals were malfunctioning.”
All four drivers involved in the accident were placed on paid administrative leave, which Poftak described as standard procedure. He said the operator of the train that was carrying passengers who struck the other train had no safety or rule violations on its MBTA record.
When asked how fast the trains were going at the time of the collision, Poftak replied, “That’s part of the investigation.”
Both trains derailed. None of the passengers were injured, while all four drivers – two per train – were eventually transported to Massachusetts General Hospital.
Poftak said the drivers all got off the trains themselves, suggesting “none of them were seriously injured.” Three have since been released from the hospital. He declined to describe the nature of their injuries, citing legal privacy restrictions.
The MBTA’s latest crash came six weeks after the Federal Transit Administration launched a near-unprecedented investigation into the T’s safety, sparked by a series of incidents that prompted an FTA official to describe the regulator as “extremely concerned about the ongoing to describe security problems”. ”
“I know these incidents are worrying,” Poftak said Thursday. “No one is more concerned than those of us who work here at T and are committed to keeping the system as secure as possible. I continue to maintain that the MBTA is safe. I take the T regularly, as does my family.”
Last summer, a Green Line trolley allegedly traveling at three times the speed limit collided with another trolley from behind on the B route, injuring 27 people. This incident prompted then-Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins to open a criminal investigation into the T.
Federal officials first recommended that MBTA install anti-collision technology on the Green Line as an additional layer of protection more than a decade ago, but that has still not happened. After last summer’s crash, T officials pushed to push the schedule forward a year and bring the Green Line Train Protection Project online by 2023.
Poftak, who took over as T’s general manager in 2019 after four years as vice chairman of the board and a brief stint as interim general manager, said Thursday that the 13-year wait for the security feature was not appropriate.
“I wish it had been installed much sooner,” Poftak said. “It would have avoided the train-on-train that we had in (July) and it probably would have avoided that accident.”
As the T awaits new anti-collision technology on the Green Line — versions of which already exist on other lines — agency officials have implemented several additional safety practices, Poftak said. Officials carefully “monitor” the speed at which Green Line operators travel, sometimes using handheld radar guns. Any signal violation will result in disciplinary action, he said.
“The Green Line is different from our other subway lines,” Poftak said. “Just as you rely on your own ability to brake and accelerate with your car on the road, and on other drivers obeying the red and green signals, the Green Line is much the same.”
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