No one was hurt in the Aug. 24 incident, but the San Jose Mercury News reports that passengers getting off a train stopped at the South San Francisco station had to scramble across the southbound tracks to avoid being hit by a second, oncoming express train.
"There were some passengers that needed to move quickly to get out of the way of the oncoming train," Caltrain spokeswoman Jayme Ackemann said. "And I'm sure that there were some passengers, regardless of where they were, who witnessed this and were extremely frightened by the incident."
Caltrain is still investigating what caused the near-accident, but Ackemann said the engineer operating the train stopped at the station tested positive for marijuana use.
Following standard protocol, the engineers of both trains have been put on paid leave, but they could face discipline or be fired depending on the investigation's outcome. The commuter line said personnel issues prevented Caltrain from naming the operators, but both were described as veterans.
Ackemann said the South San Francisco station is old and lacks a gate or crossing arms to keep passengers from crossing active tracks.
Usually engineers signal each other or radio ahead to ensure the station is clear, but apparently that did not happen in the incident several weeks ago.
This month Caltrain put into place new rules requiring engineers and dispatchers to communicate before entering its four stations that lack crossing arms - including South San Francisco - to keep passengers from entering live tracks. Caltrain officials disclosed the incident to the commuter line's board last week, and also have notified federal rail officials.
"We want to make sure that this kind of thing never ever happens again," Ackemann said. "People should feel very confident that when they are in our care, we are doing everything we can to protect and preserve their safety."