NTSB closes another WMATA safety recommendation

Written by Mischa Wanek-Libman, editor

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has closed another safety recommendation, which advised the transit agency to develop a program to periodically determine that the electronic components in Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's (WMATA) train control system are performing within design tolerances. NTSB has now closed 21 of its 29 recommendations for WMATA.


“We continue to make steady progress toward making the system safer for riders and employees,” said WMATA General Manager Richard Sarles. “We remain committed closing the remaining eight recommendations as soon as possible, while continuing to foster a culture of safety, shared responsibility and vigilance.”

In the more than four years since the Fort Totten incident, WMATA said it has improved safety through its massive rebuilding program focused on safety projects, implementation of a confidential close-call reporting system (a first among heavy rail systems), an industry first “loss of shunt” detection system, restructuring and expansion of the Safety Department with direct reporting lines to the general manager and improved independent oversight.

In November, NTSB closed seven additional recommendations:

  • R-07-025 Ensure appropriate coordination between all departments responsible for maintenance and design to resolve issues before new equipment is purchased.
  • R-07-026 Establish a single point of responsibility within [Car Maintenance] to quickly evaluate and incorporate actions identified through accident investigations or related research.
  • R-07-027 Establish written procedure regarding rail lubrication for single-track operations over switch, turnouts.
  • R-08-001 Review and update [operating rules] to provide for layers of protection for Roadway Worker – adding requirements for Briefings, Scope & Duties, acknowledgement from trains.
  • R-09-010 To all Transit Properties – Review medical history and physical examination forms and modify them as necessary to elicit information regarding sleep apnea or other sleep disorders.
  • R-09-11 To all Transit Properties – Establish a program to identify operators who are at high risk for obstructive sleep disorders and require that such operators by appropriately evaluated and treated.
  • R-10-11 Completely remove unnecessary wayside maintenance communication system to eliminate potential for interference with Automatic Train Control system

WMATA says of the remaining eight recommendations, three have been submitted to NTSB for closure. The remaining five recommendations involve longer-duration projects, such as replacement of WMATA’s entire 1000-series fleet with new 7000-series railcars. Metro began testing its first 7000-series trainset earlier this month.

Categories: Rapid Transit/Light Rail, Safety/Training