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Feds Rap Metro for Runaway Unattended Trains

Jason Jennings enjoys riding Metrorail, especially when visiting his mother in Arlington, Virginia, even if he has to wait an hour or two for a train.

The Springfield resident, who runs a lawn care service, said he has faith in Metro amid its mammoth SafeTrack maintenance project and federal reports of its subpar training, communication and equipment.

“Instead of driving and it’s congested everywhere you go, I can sit on the train around my people,” Jennings said Sunday, Aug. 28 while waiting on a Blue Line train at the Van Dorn Street station in Alexandria. “I believe [Metro] needs to do this work. As long as it makes it safe for us, I’m fine with it.”

But the federal government isn’t as satisfied with Metro, rapping the transit agency last week with yet another safety directive, this time for improperly safeguarding unattended train cars in rail yards and work zones.

“Failure to properly secure unattended trains presents a significant safety risk across the rail transit industry,” the Federal Transit Administration outlined in a 22-page report. “Unsecured and unattended trains or equipment can move in rail yards and on the mainline track, creating the potential for collisions with other trains, equipment, passengers or workers.”

The FTA has issued three safety directives in less than a month to the agency to address a variety of problems such as employee training, track inspections and communication technology.

In the latest report, the investigation between February and July focused on redundant securement for rail vehicle storage, rules and procedures and employee training.

According to the document (http://bit.ly/2bQKq5o), Metro had three incidents where unattended trains moved between April 2014 and December 2015. No injuries or damages were reported at two of the yards, but minor damage occurred Jan. 9, 2015, when a train collided with a parked vehicle at the Shady Grove Yard in Rockville.

The investigation outlined six infractions and the required actions to rectify them, including:

  • Metro doesn’t disseminate clear, concise, and unambiguous rules and procedures regarding vehicle securement, so it must revise Metrorail Safety Rules and Procedures handbook;
  • Metro failed to perform a comprehensive rules compliance audit, so it must revise “Yard Rules 16-004 Compliance Checks” checklist; and
  • Metro doesn’t ensure employees have comprehensive training to secure all agency vehicles, so it must develop and provide training to all rail transportation and car maintenance personnel.

Metro must respond to the report within 30 days from the Aug. 24 document and has 60 days to submit a corrective action plan.

Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld said some of the findings outlined in the FTA report and previous documents are currently being worked on.

In addition, he hopes a change in the internal culture such as updating policies and procedures will improve safety and service.

“Either you follow the standards, or you do not work here,” he said.

Metro began the eighth phase of it SafeTrack project over the weekend, with continuous single-tracking on the Blue Line between the Van Dorn Street and Franconia-Springfield stations to continue until Sept. 11.

Metro Transit Police and other emergency personnel from the D.C. area also conducted a training exercise Sunday that closed portions of the Yellow Line between L’Enfant Plaza and the Pentagon. It focused on simulating real-world conditions to test coordination and communication between Metro and federal, city and county agencies.

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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