D.C. Metro briefs safety groups on rail yard accident

Posted on December 1, 2009

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) officials met with members of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Tri-State Oversight Committee (TOC) and walked them through preliminary information related to Sunday's collision of two trains in the West Falls Church Rail Yard.

The meeting was called by Metro and served as a follow-up to personal contact that Metro's GM John Catoe and safety officials made in reaching out to inform officials of the FTA, NTSB and TOC about the accident, according to the agency. Catoe also briefed members of the Metro Board of Directors about the accident yesterday.

At least three of Metro's railcars were damaged beyond repair during the early morning collision between two six-car trains in the rail yard. Two of those three railcars derailed during the accident. All 12 cars sustained some level of damage and Metro's railcar maintenance officials are continuing to assess the condition of the remaining nine cars to determine if repairs are possible. New railcars cost about $3 million each. A total estimate of damages has not been completed.

Three employees sustained minor, non life-threatening injuries and were taken to a nearby hospital where they were treated and released a few hours after a six-car train struck the rear of another six-car train parked inside the West Falls Church Rail Yard at 4:27 a.m. Sunday. The employees included the railcar operator and two railcar cleaners who were on the parked train.

Train number 902 was the final train of the night to pull into the rail yard when it struck the last car of a six-car train that was parked in the yard. It was being operated in manual mode; however a train that is operated manually inside a rail yard differs from a train that is operated manually on a "main line" track that is used to provide service to customers.

Trains that are in service along main line track use an automatic train protection system, something that is not available inside Metro's nine rail yards. Automatic train protection regulates train speeds on Metro's 106-mile main line tracks.

The operator of train 902 has been a Metro employee since May 2007 and a train operator since November 2008. He is currently on paid administrative leave.


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