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Metro Fires 6 Employees After July Derailment, GM Says

Six Metro employees have been fired in connection to a July train derailment in Northern Virginia, General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld said Thursday.

Wiedefeld told the board’s public-safety committee an internal investigation revealed some employees in the track department falsified documents. He said 28 employees have received, or are currently in the process of facing disciplinary actions, which represents nearly half of the track inspection department that includes both front-line workers and supervisors.

“I want the board, our employees and our customers to know that this review revealed a disturbing level of indifference, lack of accountability and flagrant misconduct in a portion of Metro’s track department which is completely intolerable,” Wiedefeld said in a prepared statement. “Further, it is reprehensible that any supervisor or mid-level manager would tolerate or encourage this behavior, or seek to retaliate against those who objected.”

Metro’s preliminary findings in the July 29 train derailment between the Ballston-MU station in Arlington and the West Falls Church station in Falls Church showed no evidence of train operator error, but the cause could’ve been from the rails being too wide as a result of deteriorated rail ties, or weather.

About 63 people were aboard the train, but only three reported injuries.

Wiedefeld provided an outline of the employees who faced disciplinary actions:

• Four track workers and two supervisors were terminated;

• Six track inspectors face pending termination, or unpaid suspension;

• One superintendent demoted to supervisor and an assistant general superintendent demoted to superintendent;

• Another supervisor faces termination and two more are pending.

Since the derailment, Wiedefeld said the agency has made several improvements that include refresher training courses for track inspectors conducted by University of Tennessee faculty and rewriting the track inspection manual and inspecting tracks twice a week.

After the committee session, Amalgamated Transit Union President Jackie Jeter said the union believes in employee accountability, but wants to make sure the firings are justified.

“I don’t believe terminating people is the answer,” she said. “Accountability starts from the top.”

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