Monday, August 10, 2009

Statement from D.C. Metro Chief Safety Officer

Written by 
”I would like to clarify and correct some information contained in a Washington Post article entitled “Metro Safety System Failed in Near Miss Before June Crash.” However before doing so, I want to assure the public that our Metrorail system is safe and to let you know that I personally continue to use it regularly,” said Alexa Dupigny-Samuels, chief safety officer for the Washington, D.C., Metro.
“On March 2, a six-car train overran the platform at the Potomac Avenue Metrorail station by less than the length of one railcar. All station overruns are treated seriously and are investigated. During the investigative process, it was determined that part of the train’s first car stopped past the platform because a component known as a 'relay' failed. The relay was removed and replaced.

 

”This was an isolated incident in which the replacement of one component proved to be the needed fix. This incident is separate and apart from the June 22 accident. The two incidents are not related. On March 2 the problem was identified as a failed component on board a train, and that component has been replaced. In the case of the June 22 collision, the National Transportation Safety Board is looking at the track circuit as having played a role in the accident; however the NTSB has yet to identify the root cause of the accident. The March 2 incident was identified as a car-borne issue and the June 22 accident is being looked at as an issue in and along the track bed area, specifically in the track circuitry system. Metro treats station overruns seriously and follows up accordingly. The March 2 incident is a good example of how we follow up on safety concerns and correct the issue when it is identified.

 

”The Post article stated that the trains came ‘dangerously close’ on March 2. In fact, trains were about 500 feet apart, a safe distance--a fact that was shared with the reporters before the article was written.

 

“The article stated that ‘federal investigators said Metro did not tell them about it after the Red Line crash.’ In fact, the National Transportation Safety Board investigators were told of the March 2 incident on June 23, one day after the June 22 collision.



 

“The article stated that a train ‘overshot the platform by about 75 feet, the length of a rail car.’ In fact, the first car of the train passed the platform by less than the length of the railcar, or less than 75 feet, a fact that was shared with the reporters before the article was written. 

The article stated that ‘control-center supervisors did not know that anything serious was wrong.’ In fact, they knew immediately that something was wrong, and they treated the incident seriously, which is why the train’s riders were off-loaded and the train taken out of service immediately for a follow-up investigation—a fact that was shared with the reporters before the article was written. 

The article stated that, ‘Metro was trying to recreate the train protection failure (of March 2) but has been unable to do so. All related hardware was replaced, but Metro decided to bring in external resources to assess the hazard.’ In fact, our internal investigation did include attempts to recreate the problem, and that’s when it was determined to be a failed component known as a ‘relay.’ As a part of our due-diligence in conducting our investigation, we brought in outside experts, to help verify that our findings were correct. Our findings were verified by the outside experts.

 

”The article stated that Metro General Manager John Catoe has ‘promised repeatedly to keep riders better informed after the agency was criticized for failing to promptly tell them about problems with track circuits on other parts of the system.’ In fact, Mr. Catoe did make statements to that affect after the June 22 accident, and the Transit Authority has developed an informational web site about the accident. It is linked to Metro’s Web site at http://www.wmata.com/about_metro/june22.cfm and includes items such as explanatory documents, videos, diagrams, a ‘questions and answers’ section, statements, transcripts from online chats, news releases, public testimony and other types of information. It also includes a chart that tracks daily track circuit monitoring and maintenance. Additionally, Metro’s Web site includes a daily disruption report at http://www.wmata.com/rail/disruption_reports/

 


”The article also stated that Metro’s spokesperson ‘did not learn of the March incident until Friday, when asked about it by The Post.’ In fact, Metro’s spokesperson is not a member of our safety or rail investigation teams. However safety and rail experts are on those teams and are the ones responsible for conducting investigations. “
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