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MBTA Plans To Fire Driver Involved In Green Line Crash

This Green Line car is significantly damaged after striking another trolley along Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. (Courtesy NTSB)
This Green Line car is significantly damaged after striking another trolley along Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. (Courtesy NTSB)

The MBTA will take steps to fire the Green Line operator who investigators say put his trolley's controls into a "full-power position" before crashing into another train from behind and injuring 27 people, officials announced Tuesday.

Hours after the National Transportation Safety Board published a preliminary report about the July 30 collision, an MBTA spokesperson said the T is "taking the steps necessary to end the employment of the individual involved in the collision."

The MBTA placed the driver, a seven-year veteran, on administrative leave one day after the crash on the B Branch near Boston University, then suspended the employee without pay effective Monday. Officials at the transit agency will now embark on a process outlined in collective bargaining to terminate the individual, whom the MBTA has not identified.

"The delivery of safe and reliable service is the MBTA's top priority, and the MBTA took swift action following the July 30th incident to place the operator on leave," a T spokesperson said. "The MBTA and Transit Police will continue to work with the Suffolk County District Attorney's office in its ongoing investigation into the trolley operator's actions. The MBTA thanks the NTSB investigators for their diligence and hard work in establishing the facts surrounding the collision."

NTSB investigators said in their preliminary report that the driver accelerated to 31 miles per hour — three times the speed limit — before striking another westbound train ahead of it that had been traveling at about 10 miles per hour near Boston University.

Investigators noted that "the sky was clear with no precipitation" at the time of the collision.

Twenty-four riders and three MBTA employees were transported to the hospital with minor injuries after the crash, according to the NTSB's preliminary report. The NTSB had previously announced that the striking vehicle was moving about 30 miles per hour, which is three times the speed limit for that section of above-ground tracks.

The probe remains ongoing, and NTSB said its investigators will focus on "internal and external oversight, operational testing, crashworthiness of the equipment involved, and employee fitness for duty." The MBTA, Federal Transit Administration, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, and the Boston Carmen's Union that represents MBTA employees are also involved in the investigation.

The MBTA is currently developing a positive train control system that would help prevent collisions and derailments.

The Green Line Train Protection System would use sensors along the track that transmit data to alert the operator or automatically stop the vehicle whenever another vehicle is detected.

The more than $170 million project is scheduled to be complete in 2024. Jarred Johnson, executive director of TransitMatters, said the crash illustrates the need for more funding and project management capacity to accelerate the project, because had it been “installed earlier on that section, this wouldn’t have happened.”

The MBTA placed the driver of the striking train's front car, a seven-year veteran who has not been identified by name, on administrative leave after the crash. A T spokesperson could not be reached immediately Tuesday to confirm if the driver remains on leave.

This article was originally published on September 21, 2021.

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