Snag causes delays on Caltrain

Caltrain was hit with its second round of train delays in two weeks when a lighted electronic map used by traffic dispatchers to manage trains went black.

The Tuesday delay, which affected thousands of riders on as many as 20 trains, had an even wider impact than a similar, but unrelated problem on April 24. Last month’s incident was caused by a lost computer connection with train traffic signals that forced all trains to immediately stop. Both errors come as Caltrain prepares to transfer its traffic-control system to a new central operations center in June, spokesman Jonah Weinberg said.

Tuesday’s lost dispatch connection began at about 6 a.m. and was fixed within 20 minutes, Weinberg said. The delay’s cascading effect, however, pushed back some train times as much as an hour. All trains were back on schedule by 9:30 a.m., he said.

“One of the contractor staff working on the switchover at CEMOF [the Central Equipment Maintenance and Operations Facility] accidentally disconnected a communication link for the dispatch system,” Weinberg said. All trains were halted as a safety precaution until communications were restored, Weinberg said.

Caltrain CEO Mike Scanlon told board members at a meeting Tuesday that the systemwide delays were a result of “human error” and that his staff was working to ensure the same mistake isn’t repeated.

“Whenever our trains are delayed, that is a concern, but there are bound to be some glitches as the system is transferred over to CEMOF,” said Caltrain board member and Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager, he himself caught in Tuesday’s delays. In spite of the interruption, he managed to arrive from San Jose at the Caltrain meeting in San Carlos just as it was beginning.

“If this is a recurring thing then the car starts to look a lot better, because I don’t want to come into work at 10 a.m.,” said John Tseng, a regular train commuter from San Carlos to Mountain View. He plans to continue using Caltrain for the time being, but a “third strike” might make him reconsider, Tseng said.

Caltrain, which has never had a operation center before, expects its new center, located at the San Jose Diridon station, to be operational in June.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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