N-Judah mishap unrelated to lack of automatic control system, Muni says 

Muni officials are still investigating the exact causes of yesterday’s N-Judah accident that caused massive delays for some 150,000 commuters, but the agency is certain that an automatic train control system would have done nothing to prevent the mishap.

The inbound N-Judah train sustained a broken pantograph — the metallic arm that connects the vehicle to its overhead power source — at Second Avenue and Irving Street, right before it was set to enter the Sunset Tunnel. The broken pantograph eventually snapped Muni’s overhead power system, bringing down 500 feet of wire on to the trackway, causing lengthy setbacks.

Unlike most of Muni’s underground system, light rail vehicles travel in manual mode — controlled by the operator and not central command — in the Sunset Tunnel. The California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates rail systems in the state, recently criticized Muni for this practice.

However, the agency adamantly denied that automatic train control would have deterred the accident.

“Automatic train control had absolutely nothing to do with this incident,” agency spokesman Paul Rose said. “This was an issue with infrastructure, where a bad overhead wire broke the pantograph and eventually caused the damage to the overhead wire. Having automatic train control in the Sunset Tunnel would not have made a difference.”

Rose said the N-Judah operator has been tested for drugs and alcohol and placed on nondriving status — standard procedure following this kind of incident. However, he is not considered to be at fault for the problem, Rose said.


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Will Reisman

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