Thousands of Milwaukee Road commuters arrived at work more thanan hour late yesterday after a train crew "misconstrued" new safetyregulations, stalling trains at every stop.
The foulup on the 6:24 a.m. train from Fox Lake to Chicago had aripple effect, delaying six subsequent rush-hour trains on therailroad's north line.
Passengers, livid about the delay, jammed Metra phone lines tocomplain about the new regulations that require employees to holdtrains for late arrivals and check all doors before departure.
Embarrassed Metra officials responded by distributing flyers onevening rush-hour trains apologizing for the "inordinate andinexcusable" delays.
"I almost had a heart attack running up the stairs to my office,I was running so fast," said Roselle Maramont, 56, who arrived at herLoop receptionist's job an hour late.
"What kind of idiot would do this sort of thing during rushhour? "
Metra Executive Director James E. Cole said two conductorsaboard the morning train "mistakenly believed they had to walk up anddown the platform checking to see that each door is closed."
Regulations imposed last week merely require conductors to makea cursory check of all doors, then inform the engineer by two-wayradio that the train is ready for departure, he said.
"There's nothing wrong with the policy. It's just that thisparticular crew made a delay out of it," Cole said. "It won't happenagain. We'll have people riding with the conductors for a while tomake sure it doesn't."
Cole said the two conductors, apparently miffed at the newpolicy, told passengers to blame Metra for the delay and passed outhis phone number.
John Mogan, general chairman of the United TransportationWorkers Union representing train employees, said he initially opposedthe directive because "it put time constraints on our people thatdidn't exist before."
He added, "We support the rule the way it's being applied now.This was a misunderstanding, not a deliberate slowdown. We weren'ttrying to stick it to anybody."