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A Lynx Blue Line train derailed in May 2022 because of a broken axle bearing. A subsequent investigation that found the same problem could exist in all 43 light-rail vehicles. CATS interim CEO Brent Cagle only learned about the accident and investigation nearly a year after the incident, when he received a letter from the NC DOT regarding the incident.

After criticism from NCDOT, CATS fires general manager of its rail division

CATS Blue Line train
Julie Rose
The city of Charlotte has fired the general manager of its rail system.

The Charlotte Area Transit System has fired its general manager of rail operations, Deltrin Harris, after the North Carolina Department of Transportation criticized safety procedures at the light-rail system this year.

Harris had led CATS’ rail operations since December 2020.

But in the wake of a Lynx Blue Line train derailment in May 2022, the state said the transit system’s response to the accident was “unclear, insufficient and not acceptable.”

Though the train did not tip over and no one was hurt, the DOT criticized CATS for not performing the required maintenance on its trains. It has set a speed limit of 35 mph on all Lynx Blue Line trains, which need to be repaired to correct a wheel bearing fault that could cause them to derail.

The state also threatened to shut down one of the system’s rail lines if it didn’t staff its rail operations control center with at least two people.

A former rail controller, Terry Creech, has sued the city over his firing after the derailment. Creech was the controller on duty when the train derailed, and CATS terminated him for not following procedures after the accident.

Creech has said the center was routinely staffed with only one person creating undue stress on him and other controllers.

Interim CATS chief executive Brent Cagle last week said he could not comment on Creech’s case because it involved pending litigation.

Harris’ termination letter did not go into any details about his job performance. It only said he was being fired for unsatisfactory performance and the department’s “lack of confidence in his leadership ability.”

He’s the latest leader to leave CATS, which has also seen its CEO, chief financial officer and chief operating officer depart in the past year.

City Manager Marcus Jones has suspended the search for a new leader, while Cagle works to reform the department.

Interim CATS chief executive Brent Cagle said Harris will be replaced on an interim basis by Gary Lee, who has worked with CATS for 20 years.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.