Lipinski fed up with Metra BNSF Line problems, wants 'results'

  • Metra BNSF passengers squeeze onto trains at Union Station in Chicago to board in June. Service problems are riling U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski.

    Metra BNSF passengers squeeze onto trains at Union Station in Chicago to board in June. Service problems are riling U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski. Courtesy of Carol Thompson

Updated 8/29/2018 6:07 PM

After thousands of his constituents who use Metra's BNSF Line sweated through another service meltdown Monday at Union Station, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski delivered a rare rebuke.

"Metra commuters pay for and deserve service they can rely on. I am deeply concerned with issues that have been impacting riders on the BNSF Line," the Western Springs Democrat and House Transportation Committee member said Tuesday.


"The only acceptable solution here is results."

Metra has apologized for a "hot, frustrating night" on the BNSF, which runs between Aurora and Chicago. Trouble started when Train No. 1239 damaged a switch while leaving Union Station around 3:20 p.m. Monday. That shut down three platforms, causing a domino effect of delays and cancellations.

"We are still investigating how that happened, including whether human error played a role," Metra said.

Adding to the pain, an unrelated switch failure that afternoon "further constricted train movement.

The summer of discontent for BNSF riders started in June when Metra revised its schedule after the installation of an automatic braking system.

Shifts in some rush-hour trains combined with unrelated service problems caused major delays and packed conditions for thousands.

Monday's meltdown followed a train stoppage during the afternoon rush Aug. 20 related to a mechanical problem. BNSF riders also have suffered with air-conditioning failures this summer.

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"We know it was a hot, frustrating night. We know this has been a difficult summer on the BSNF Line and that (Monday's) performance was particularly unsatisfactory," officials told riders.

"We apologize and are committed to addressing the issues that have impacted service."

The rail agency also admitted its crowd control plan at Union Station was problematic.

"The situation can change quickly in these circumstances, and we continue evaluating how to improve our communication," officials said.

Lipinski said he questioned Metra leaders on delays, schedule changes and faulty air-conditioning Tuesday. "I said all these issues must be resolved," he said.

Aurora resident and BNSF commuter Dave Keating said Union Station was a "madhouse" Monday afternoon with overcrowding causing hazardous conditions.

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