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Rail driver put on leave after stranding commuters in D.C.

| Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009

WASHINGTON -- A Metrorail operator is on paid administrative leave after he left his train -- with passengers on it -- last week and refused to complete his shift, transit agency officials said.

Eight stops remained for the unidentified operator until the end of the line, but at 11:24 p.m. Monday, he radioed the operations control center to request a restroom break.

"He was not feeling well," Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said. "That was granted."

The control center dispatched the station manager to temporarily supervise the train.

Fifteen minutes later, the operator still had not returned. Another train headed in the same direction had to share the track with oncoming trains to rescue the stranded passengers. Metro spokeswoman Angela Gates said the number of passengers affected isn't known, but she speculated that the number would have been small because of the late hour.

When the operator finally returned to his train and was told to continue to the end of the line, he would not. According to a Metro source, the operator said it was time for him to go off duty.

"He did not comply with the appropriate instructions from the operations control center or the supervisor to move the train," Taubenkibel said. "And, as a result, he was removed from service."

Central operations control dispatched a supervisor to take the train to the end of the line.

It is a violation of Metro rules for operators to stop operating a bus or a train until they have been properly replaced.

On Friday, officials were awaiting results of a drug and alcohol test, Taubenkibel said.

The union that represents the worker declined to discuss details of the case, saying it is waiting for Metro to decide whether disciplinary action will be taken.

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