At about 6:28A EDT, on Tuesday, August 1, 2017, two Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) rail cars experienced a hard coupling while moving into a shop at the West Falls Church Yard located north of the West Falls Church station and Interstate 66. A hard coupling is when two rail cars are coupled together at a speed greater than desired, typically in excess of four to five miles per hour. There was minimal damage and no injuries.

At the time of the incident, WMATA personnel were in the process of moving a four-car train to couple with a two-car train on track 18W, which leads into one of six shop bays at the yard. The moving four-car train was being operated under the "proceed" method, which involves a flagman guiding the train and is typically utilized when a train is being operated from a car other than the lead car.

As the moving train approached the stationary train, the flagman called over the radio to stop, followed by several urgent and repeated commands to stop. Before the train could come to a complete stop however, car 3083 made a hard coupling with car 3186.

This incident is being reviewed by the WMATA Safety Department. Below are Rail Transit OPS' preliminary findings.

Probable Cause: We believe the probable cause of this incident to be the failure of the train operator and flagman to follow established WMATA policy for vehicle movement into and out of maintenance shops.

Contributing Factor(s):

  • Failure to follow established WMATA policy (MSRPH SOP 12) regarding yard moves
  • Failure to follow established safety stops at fifty feet and ten feet (MSRPH 12.5.4.1)
  • Failure to maintain vehicle speed and be able to stop short of any obstruction (MSRPH 12.5.1.10)

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Rail Transit OPS Group is an independent, publicly-funded group that monitors rail transit operations, performance, and safety procedures to proactively address potential issues. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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