Boston Globe

MBTA Whistleblower Claims He Was Fired for Raising Safety Concerns: Report

An MBTA representative denied Ron Nickle's allegations but said the agency would review the claims

A former top official with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority claims he was fired for raising safety concerns and urging the agency not to suppress information about dangerous incidents, the Boston Globe reports

Ron Nickle, the MBTA's top safety official for eight years, filed a federal complaint alleging that a high-ranking employee had urged the safety department to alter a report about a 2015 runaway Red Line train, the Globe said.

According to the report, Nickle also alleged that the MBTA put pressure on the commuter rail system to prioritize on-time performance ahead of safety.

The report comes amid scrutiny of the MBTA after derailments on the Green Line and Red Line last month that caused major delays. 

An MBTA representative denied Nickle's allegations but said the agency would review the claims. 

"While the former employee’s statement is replete with mischaracterizations and falsehoods, the MBTA, nonetheless, will review the former employee's unsubstantiated claims with its regulatory partners," spokesperson Lisa Battison said in a statement. 

The MBTA had made a "number of changes, including hiring a new Chief Safety Officer, to ensure the (MBTA) Safety Department remains focused on its mission with the highest level of professionalism, expertise, thoroughness, and accuracy," Battison said. 

According to the report, Nickle said he was fired in March while investigations into several accidents were underway. They included the electrocution of a worker on the Orange Line and a commuter rail train that lost its wheel during a commute. 

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday that he had been briefed on the decision to terminate Nickle and supports it.

"No issue is more important the T than safety," he said.

Following the 2015 incident involving the runaway Red Line train, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation released a report in which the operator of the train took responsibility for the incident.

Earlier this month, an MBTA fare hike sparked protests amid lingering questions over the derailments. 

Work on the Red Line is expected to continue throughout the summer, with the MBTA saying it aims to improve service levels by Labor Day. 

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