September 20, 2019 Foggy Bottom WMATA Incident

On Friday, September 20, 2019 at about 8:31AM EDT Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Train 910 while departing Foggy Bottom-GWU enroute to Vienna reported a loud bang and dust in the tunnel 813 feet outbound of Foggy Bottom . Controllers in the Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC) instructed the operator to visually inspect the exterior of the train, the operator reported nothing found and continued on with no problems.

The following train Train 609 was asked for an inspection from Foggy Bottom to Rosslyn, and at 8:43AM reported metal debris located between the third rail and the outside running rail which the train runs along. The operator of T-609 also reported the third rail appeared to have been flashed burned in the area. The ROCC instructed Train 609 to reverse back to Foggy Bottom. During this time frame from 8:43-8:45AM several unidentified train operators made comments that were not pertinent or professional as well as the fact that the debris had been located there “all morning”

The ROCC initiated single track operations at 8:58AM via the New Carrollton/Largo track at Foggy Bottom, Rosslyn (upper), and Court House stations with Train 418 enroute to Franconia-Springfield being the first train; at the same time the ROCC began short turning Silver line service at Clarendon to reduce congestion in the single track area. Train 605 was the first Silver Line train to reverse at Clarendon, while in the process of trying to move forward to cross over to the outbound track Train 605 began moving in the reverse direction against the operators command , this resulted in Vienna bound Train 912 being rerouted towards Arlington Cemetery at 9:06AM. Following several troubleshooting steps, the ROCC instructed Train 605 to be operated from the third car with a supervisor being in the first car as the lookout and emergency brakeman.

At 9:09AM, WMATA Emergency Response Team (ERT) reported in at Rosslyn to begin walking back towards Foggy Bottom to inspect and identify and debris and/or damage to the track infrastructure which started at 9:18AM; At 9:43AM the ERT identified metal debris 813 feet outbound of the Foggy Bottom platform edge on the outbound track. The ERT requested third rail traction power removed between Foggy Bottom and Rosslyn to remove the debris at 9:44; the debris was removed at 9:48, and third rail power resumed at 9:50 at which time WMATA ROCC concluded single track operations at Foggy Bottom.

A second single tracking operation started at 9:39AM and lasted to 10:00AM at East Falls Church where the disabled Train 605 was held to allow four outbound trains to go around it.

Cause and Contributing Factors – The source of the metal debris wasn’t identifiable to Rail Transit OPS, however the delays experienced were compounded by the lack of radio discipline requiring multiple transmissions to get a single message across, also contributing was the lack of established procedures for when a service reduction or suspension is required at any of stations within the WMATA system. In this event had a standardized procedure been in place, such as alternating revering outbound trains at Foggy Bottom and Clarendon, and sending alternating Largo Blue trains to Mt. Vernon Sq via the Yellow line bridge (which was being done to a point), there would be a consistent flow to what was occurring versus what occurred which is at best an ad-hoc response to an incident

Recommendations– Rail Transit OPS recommends that a) WMATA creates a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to address a service related incident at each platform at every station; b) Require ALL train operators to report debris along the alignment and for WMATA to remove the debris as soon as possible, and until it is removed place an Advanced Mobile Flagger (AMF) at the station prior to the debris to instruct operators to operate at reduced speeds; c) Enforcing radio discipline to create a sterile radio environment, as well as requiring any personnel to identify their ID or Train number at the start of transmissions and to wait until acknowledgment from the ROCC prior to continuing with the transmission with the exception of EMERGENCY transmissions which receives priority

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