Metro plans to seek disciplinary action against two track workers who took an unauthorized AT&T contractor onto the rail and had to avoid an oncoming train on the Yellow Line near the Eisenhower Avenue station in Alexandria.
Metro’s Chief Safety Officer Patrick Lavin explained to the board’s Safety Committee the employees failed to follow safety protocol, although they received additional training several weeks prior to the May 18 incident. They have been suspended and await a formal disciplinary decision.
Lavin also briefed the committee about a separate case from May 24 when a train operator, who had recently returned from an 11-month medical leave, passed through a work zone at twice the 10 mph limit.
“These [incidents] are part of the culture that we need to change,” he said. “So, if you have for 40 years people behaving in a certain way and you’re trying to change that, it’s a very difficult task to accomplish.”
The two episodes took place after the Federal Transit Administration sent a letter in April with mandates to address several problems, including: requiring a worker to keep trains from coming into a work area; clarifying communications between rail operators, rail controllers and roadway workers; and reducing distractions among rail controllers.
In regard to the work zone requirement, Lavin said a worker needed to be at the station platform and provide the train operator with advance warning that a work area lies ahead.
Although a controller at the Rail Operations Control Center was suspended for 10 days because that person allowed the workers on the tracks, Lavin said the track workers are primarily responsible for being on the ground and the control center’s role in the incident “was minimal.”
This marks the fifth time a Metro worker was nearly hit by a train this year.
Metro board member Carol Carmody, who represents the federal government and chairs the committee, asked whether more details was provided to the FTA’s safety directive from April. Lavin said Metro’s written response was sent out April 28, with an additional letter on May 8 detailing rail operations and maintenance and safety improvements in the control center.
In other business, the board approved for the new hours of operation to begin June 25, the same day rail and bus fares and parking fees will increase.
“To ensure effective and efficient communication with [Metro] customers, staff is recommending all changes have the same the same implementation date currently scheduled for June 25,” according to the resolution approved last week. “The last Sunday in June is the traditional implementation date for the annual work selection for union employees. Further, with the change in rail service hours, complementary bus service … needs to be initiated at the same time to provide customers with the intended alternatives.”
The new hours, which previously weren’t to take effect until July, are as follows:
•5 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday;
•5 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday;
•7 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday; and
•8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday.