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Posted at 1:02 PM ET, 06/22/2010

Probe launched into stalled train

By Katherine Shaver and Aaron Davis

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 Davis  | June 22, 2010; 1:02 PM ET
Categories:  Crime and Public Safety, Maryland, Traffic and Transportation  
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Really? I would think that most of these commuters have some kind of a pass. So, what good would one free ride be?

Posted by: linroy62 | June 22, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

"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."

It's not a "free pass"; these people already paid for service that MARC failed to deliver.

Posted by: alewis4 | June 22, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

I'd love to say this is a novel occurrence but frankly, even though I could get a transit subsidy from my employer to take MARC, I drive into DC every day. Three years of taking the MARC, only to experience heat-related delays and numerous breakdowns in the summer, were enough. No, actually, let me correct myself. Three years of having to stand all the way from Union Station to BWI, only to get home an hour later than if I drive myself - that was enough.

Posted by: kgirl2 | June 22, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Are they serious about a free pass? How insulting. Most of us on the train are monthly riders. A free pass does nothing for us. Those passengers who were not monthly riders (i.e., heading to the airport) obviously won't be there to receive their "free pass" to hell. Get a grip MARC. How about handing out copies your emergency preparedness plan.

Posted by: susu1 | June 22, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Is MARC serious about the "free pass"? What an insult. Most riders are monthly passholders. Those on the train without a monthly pass (i.e., headed to BWI), obviously won't be at Union Station to receive their "free pass to hell." Get a Grip MARC. How about passing out copies of your Emergency Preparedness Plan.

Posted by: susu1 | June 22, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

I'd say 90% of 538 passangers are monthly holders, so what good is a free pass? I think BP wrote the MTA Emergency Preparedness Plan and it references Walrus'.

Posted by: ccbiii2000 | June 22, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

This is unacceptable. The same thing happened about a month ago on Train 534 (5:20 p.m. departure from Union Station). We were stuck on the train in the 80+ degree weather for approximaly an hour and a half and were not allowed to step off the train. It was ridiculously hot and humid on the train and all that the Conductors could tell us was that they were working on it and waiting for a train to couple up to our train and bring us BACK to Union Station. This entire process took approximately another hour and we were never given so much as a drop of water or an apology. To make matters worse, when we got to Union Station, they weren't even sure what train we would be using to go towards Perryville and upon asking the conductor on the platform, was met with a RUDE attitude and downright disrespectful demeanor. MARC does this to us travellers on numerous occassions during the year and even though we pay our monthly fare ($225 for myself) every month we are treated as second class citizens. More needs to be done about this service and a better back-up plan needs to be put in place. That evening I arrived home at 9:50 p.m. when I was supposed to get off the train at 6:35 p.m. to pick up my children. No apologies, no passes, nothing. The only reason that MARC is acknowledging this event was that it was captured on national television. Well I say, it's about time!

Posted by: MarcRider | June 22, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

It's no better on the bus. I decided to be green one day and take the bus. Forgetting that the return bus was on a different street. Then the bus breaks down. We get to the end of the line (transfer to another county system) after the last bus has left for the day. Not having cab fare, I decide to walk the 3 miles to home. Sprain my ankle, and pay a $50. doctor fee.

Posted by: amillionto1 | June 22, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

QUESTION: In the same situation, can the passengers force the doors open and get out? If so, why didn't they? Also, after the MARC train fire a few years ago, aren't all the windows able to be pushed open? Why listen to the officials when they have proven to be less than efficient.

Posted by: dezlboy1 | June 22, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

the title of this post is very scary, I hope nobody was hurt by the probe when it was launched into the train

Posted by: seraphina21 | June 22, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Thank you MarcRider for your comments. I too was on train 534 which broken down earlier this month. No apologies have been heard for that debacle. More attention to funding and mitigation procedures needs to happen.

Posted by: jthiker | June 22, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

"Probe launched into stalled Train". If my car doesn't move for 2 hours it's not stalled it's broke down.

Posted by: ccbiii2000 | June 22, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

According to the MTA site, another train with locomotive problems is returning to Union Station right now. Yikes!

Posted by: CubsFan | June 22, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

For the past three days the air conditioning has not been working on the end rail car on train 877, that leaves Union Station to Martinsburg, WV.

The conductors tell us not to complain to them, because they can't get anything done about it. The temp inside reaches 90+ degrees. Despite what happened on the train the other week, MARC officials are doing nothing for their passengers. Unfortunately, it's going to take someone dying before anything gets done!!!

The only thing CSX cares about is their precious freight traffic. They don't care about their passengers, and they treat them like cattle.

Posted by: ginsengprod1 | June 24, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

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