Preliminary Event Summary 16.218 on WMATA Service Disruptions due to Rail Fastners on Blue, Orange, and Silver Lines on October 11, 2016

Event Date: Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Event Time: 10:55 AM EDT

Railroad Involved: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

Event Type: Track Defect

Event Location: Blue/Orange/Silver Line, Track 1 (D1 29+00)

Preliminary Causes: Track Defect and Loss of Situational Awareness by ROCC Controllers

On Tuesday, October 11, 2016 at about 10:55 AM EDT, while conducting a scheduled walking inspection on the outbound D1 track between the Smithsonian and Federal Triangle stations, a WMATA Track Inspection team encountered eleven defective rail fasteners located consecutively on the left/inside rail, beginning approximately one thousand feet outbound of the Federal Triangle station.  WMATA design standards call for fasteners installed in direct fixation conditions (such as in tunnels and on elevated structures) be spaced every thirty inches on center. Based on the track team’s inspection, it was determined a distance in excess of twenty-seven feet was defective, and qualified as a code black condition. The team requested the Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC) remove the track from service for immediate repairs. The ROCC implemented single track operations between the two nearest interlockings/crossovers located between Federal Triangle and outbound of Federal Center SW utilizing the inbound or D2 track.

Preliminary review of the actions of the ROCC over the following ten hours indicated a strong possibility that the ROCC personnel lost situational awareness on what was occurring on the railroad. This was evidenced in multiple areas including;

Failure to reroute Silver line trains to New Carrollton to fill in gaps due to reduced number of Orange Line trains

Holding trains on multiple occasions in excess of ten minutes at individual stations

Processing an excess number of trains in each direction through the work zone, then requiring the same trains to hold at stations beyond the work zone, in some cases up to ten additional minutes

Failure to fully utilize the flexibility of the system by extending limited service to/from Virginia to McPherson Square and Metro Center via Track 1 and to/from Maryland to L’Enfant Plaza

Failure to anticipate transferring traffic from other lines would inundate the two transfer stations located within the work zone, Metro Center and L’Enfant Plaza, with additional passengers

Our recommendation with regards to handling emergency single tracking operations that occur within the core of the WMATA system, especially during peak periods: expand to fully utilize the system to its maximum working capacity as well as create a real-world plan to effectively divert passengers from impacted areas to reduce crowding at transfer stations like Metro Center and L’Enfant Plaza.

Rail Transit OPS Group is an independent group that monitors rail transit operations, performance, and safety procedures to proactively address potential issues. We can be found on Facebook and Twitter.