Continuing safety issues are front and center at Washington Metro.
The Washington Post reported yesterday that the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission is not happy with Metro’s efforts to prevent train operators from running red lights, as well as ensuring worker safety.
The commission Chair, Chris Hart, has told Metro that the agency needs to prepare a “holistic” plan to address these issues. Hart said “Several reports relate to roadway worker protection issues and several reports relate to the running of red signals, both of which are troubling and need, to me, some response because we’re not seeing trends go in the right direction on these.” The commission said that Metro needs to do a better job of worker training when it comes to safety issues.
Some specific instances of recent safety violations and dangerous events reported by the commission were a runaway train, red signals run on three occasions, worker safety violations occurring four times, and two trains nearly colliding when they both ended up with the identical radio call number.
Paul Wiedefeld, Metro’s general manager, recounted an incident that took place on March 26, where a Red Line train stopped running just outside the Rhode Island Avenue station. This mishap resulted in the train’s 100+ riders being stranded for 90 minutes on the train because of a “slow reaction and poor coordination” among Metro departments. Frighteningly, two passengers decided to get off the train, exposing themselves to the danger of touching the third rail which provides electric power to the train, or possibly being hit by another train. The Post also reported that the agency’s inspectors only learned of this and of the runaway train after they were told about them by commission inspectors.
This is not the first time the transit agency has been in hot water due to safety issues. On October 7, 2019, two Metro trains collided after an operator failed to obey a stop order. In September 2020, the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission reported the agency had a weak safety culture at the completion of a safety audit, and in November 2020, the commission said that it was not pleased with the level of detail in Metro’s safety plan, which was requested of Metro by the commission in it’s audit.