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Probe launched after MARC train stalls, stranding passengers in the heat

Officials from MARC, Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration have launched an investigation into why an electric locomotive stalled on a MARC train eight minutes after it left Union Station on Monday, trapping about 900 passengers in rail cars without air conditioning for more than two hours on a sweltering summer evening, a MARC spokesman said Tuesday.

MARC spokesman Terry Owens said the investigation will determine why the locomotive broke down and why its brakes jammed, making it impossible for another locomotive to tow the stranded train back to Union Station. Passengers were stranded on the train with no air conditioning and windows that don't open on a day when temperatures topped 90 degrees. Prince George's Fire and Rescue officials said about 10 passengers from Train 538 on the Penn Line were treated at the scene for heat-related illness, and three were taken to a hospital.

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) called the incident "utterly unacceptable." The MARC system needs a better system for getting passengers off stranded trains more quickly, O'Malley told reporters Tuesday morning after a Baltimore event about health-care jobs.

"It's absolutely unacceptable from a service standpoint and a safety standpoint that people were stranded out there" on such a hot day, O'Malley added.

About 800 passengers were rescued at 8:20 p.m. by Train 442 after it left Union Station on its regular route. An additional 100 boarded Train 544 at 9:40 p.m. All 900 passengers from the stranded train -- Train 538 -- didn't fit on the first train because it already carried other passengers from Union Station, Owens said.

Amtrak officials will be part of the investigation because it operates and maintains the MARC system for the state, Owens said. He said the review will also examine whether the public address system on the train failed.

MARC officials will be handing out passes for one free ride to passengers leaving Union Station on Train 538 this afternoon and evening to apologize for the incident, Owens said.

By Katherine Shaver and Aaron C. Davis  |  June 22, 2010; 1:07 PM ET
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Wow - a free ride on MARC - that will mean a lot to the monthly ticket holders!

Posted by: bkelley1 | June 22, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

So how about those new trains O'Malley, eh?

May 6, 2009 6:30 pm US/Eastern
When overcrowded MARC trains had a series of breakdowns last year, riders were told that help was on its way.
There is a reason why the governor is all smiles. He's checking out the first of 26 brand new MARC commuter locomotives and the first of 13 new double decker coaches.

"These are very nice, much better than the B&O commuter trains I rode as a boy," Governor Martin O'Malley said.

Commuters look forward to reliability and capacity increases.

Posted by: chesapeaketerp | June 23, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

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