Rail line pledges O's fans won't get sidetracked again

July 22, 1992|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Staff Writer

Baseball fans who ride the Brunswick and Camden commuter train lines to Oriole Park to attend tomorrow night's game are being assured they will get a ride home, even if the game runs into extra innings.

A repeat of a July 7 incident, in which 85 passengers were stranded for nearly two hours on a remote Washington siding after a 14-inning game, "is not going to happen," said Jay Westbrook, a spokesman for CSX Transportation Inc.

To make sure it doesn't, CSX has ordered stepped-up monitoring and enforcement of safety and operating rules. Those rules should have prevented the circumstances July 7 that pushed an engineer beyond his legal workday and stranded the passengers.

In addition, a Mass Transit Administration spokeswoman said the MTA can make buses available if problems arise with the train service, although no formal agreement has been reached on the subject.

"We've had games that went beyond midnight before, and we didn't have a problem. There will always be service for our passengers," said Dianna Rosborough, an MTA spokeswoman.

CSX operates the trains for the state's Maryland Rail Commuter service.

The company has blamed the July 7 incident on the engineer's failure to realize, and tell a supervisor at Camden Station, that he was nearing the end of his 12-hour work shift. Federal law would prevent him from working longer.

Had he alerted the supervisor, a relief crew could have been sent to meet the train in Washington and complete the trip to Brunswick, Mr. Westbrook said.

Instead, a dispatcher noticed the problem and notified the engineer. But time had been lost and the train was sidetracked north of Washington's Union Station from 2:25 a.m. until after 4 a.m. while a replacement engineer made his way to the train.

The engineer's error, together with other problems during the trip, produced a three-hour delay for angry, exhausted passengers, who had left Camden Station at 12:41 a.m. They were not given a reason for the delay, and some didn't get home until after 5 a.m.

CSX has since advised state officials the company cannot provide unlimited service to baseball fans when the games at Oriole Park run late. "There's a limit to the duration of our service," Mr. Westbrook said.

"Our first priority is to operate commuter and freight service" on theCamden and Brunswick lines, he said. That requires overnight track inspections and rest for crews, and "it becomes a simple logistics problem when a game goes into additional innings."

The company has asked the state for "additional support" -- perhaps buses -- when games run late, and expressed hope for a meeting with state transportation officials to work out details before tomorrow's game.

But Ms. Rosborough said the meeting can't be held until state Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer and MTA Administrator Ronald J. Hartman return from vacation in two weeks.

In the meantime, Mr. Westbrook said CSX has taken steps to prevent a recurrence of the July 7 incident.

Passenger supervisors have been ordered to remain on duty at Camden Station, ready to assist "until all trains reach their destinations."

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