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Metro Eyes Lack of Radio Communication in Red Line Delay

During the transit agency’s weekly board meeting, the board’s safety committee detailed the incident that spurred two passengers to evacuate the train and scale a catwalk in the tunnel Sept. 13 near the Farragut North station in the District.

The incident occurred on the same night the Washington Nationals game in Southeast and a World Cup of Hockey contest at the Verizon Center in D.C. No injuries were reported and the two passengers were escorted safely to the platform by Metro workers.

“I did not hear anything about this incident until two days later,” said Carol Carmody, who chairs the committee. “Although there were no injuries, this was a serious incident. In the future, if something like this occurs, we could get some kind of email or something.”

Patrick Lavin, chief safety officer with Metro, said a switch malfunctioned on the track and the train couldn’t continue because the light remained red. In addition, he said the train operator couldn’t be reached by the Rail Operations Control Center. However, the operator couldn’t be reached for four minutes.

The train, originally heading toward Shady Grove in Rockville a few minutes after 10 p.m., detoured back to Farragut North about 10:35 p.m.

Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld said the investigation of the incident is ongoing.

“There was a breakdown in communication,” he said.

He suggested adding antennas into pocket tracks, which are small rails embedded between two main tracks that can cross from one track to another.

Wiedefeld also said train operators could be provided with bullhorns to communicate with riders.

He also defended workers for not cutting power off along the third rail and assist the two commuters to the station platform while walking inside the tunnel.

“At the moment they did what was safe to get them off the track,” said Wiedefeld, who stressed riders shouldn’t leave a train under any circumstances unless directed.

D.C. Councilman and board chairman Jack Evans (D-Ward) said he understands why the two passengers walked off the train.

“If I was stuck on a Metro train for 10 minutes and nobody told me what was going on I would lead the charge to get off,” he told reporters after the board meeting. “I think it is Metro’s responsibility to inform our riders what’s happening immediately. We would just encourage the people to stay on the train because of the danger involved.”

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