Railroad Involved: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)

Event Location: WMATA Red Line Glenmont Station

Event Date and Time: Tuesday, July 5, 2016 at 7:14 PM EDT (16-0194)

Event Category: Red Signal Violation

On Tuesday, July 5, 2016 at about 7:14 PM EDT, WMATA Red Line Train 121–an eight car train–departed Glenmont station on Track 1 and passed signal B11/04 which was red and continued on Track 1 in the incorrect direction across the interlocking, trailing (forcing a switch from a position opposite from the set position) Switch 1A and coming to a stop approximately 200 feet on Track 1 beyond Switch 1A. Red Line Train 125 was in approach to Glenmont from Wheaton station on Track 1 at this time in preparation to crossover from Track 1 to Track 2 and came to a safe stop. Rail Transit OPS has identified the following contributing factors to this event: breakdown in communications, loss of situational awareness on behalf of the train operator, and suspended use of Automatic Train Control (ATO). Revenue service to Glenmont was suspended for approximately two hours, and trains single-tracked around the incident area until system closing. Two passengers were aboard the incident train at the time of the incident, but suffered no injuries. Minor damage to the switch resulted from this event.

Based on limited preliminary information, the following events occurred:

  • Train 121 departed Glenmont without proper authorization and departure procedures
  • Train 121 operator failed to properly acknowledge the red signal at B11/04
  • Train 121 operator failed to properly scan the tracks in the direction of travel
  • Train 121 operator failed to note that switch B11/1A was reversed prior to passing and trailing it
  • Train 125 in approach to Glenmont lost speed commands as Train 121 passed switch 1A, activating the anti-collision feature of Automatic Train Protection (ATP) and continued along Track 1
  • Train 125 operator acted properly and stopped their train

Our primary conclusion and recommendation is:

  • Had Train 121 been operating in Automatic Train Operation (ATO), the event would not have occurred
  • Had WMATA implemented stricter radio discipline and training, the event could have been prevented
  • Had WMATA required stricter departure procedures, the event could have been prevented
  • If WMATA plans to continue to use manual operation as the primary mode of operation, derail devices should be installed at ALL mainline interlockings
  • Rail Transit OPS recommends the full time return to ATO operations as soon as possible, with time reserved for manual proficiency

Red Line Trains typically approach Glenmont, which is the eastern terminal, from Wheaton on Track 1. Prior to arrival at Glenmont, there is an interlocking, or crossover, to allow trains to change tracks. Trains can either continue straight into Glenmont on Track 1, reverse direction and then crossover from Track 1 to Track 2 back towards Wheaton, or, while on approach, reduce their speed and cross over from Track 1 to Track 2 and enter Glenmont, where they can reverse direction and proceed out of the station on Track 2.

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