January 2, 2018 Shady Grove Yard Derailment

At about 6:52AM EST on Tuesday, January 2, 2018, the third car of an eight-car 7000-series train preparing to enter revenue service at Shady Grove station (A15) derailed while passing a switch within the Shady Grove rail yard (A99). The only personnel aboard the train at the time of the derailment was the train operator, who was uninjured. Damages to the railcars and track infrastructure are still being assessed by Metro.

A Google Maps satellite image of the area surrounding the location of the incident. The red pin in the WMATA Shady Grove Rail Yard indicates the approximate location of the derailment relative to other landmarks, like Shady Grove station.

The non-revenue train was traversing the outer of the two “loop tracks,” which curve around the northern side of the yard, destined for Shady Grove station; upon arrival, it was expected to enter revenue service as Red Line Train 107.

The train’s operator reported a derailment of the 3rd car in the train, car 7297, after feeling the train jerk. Montgomery County Fire and Rescue was dispatched to the scene as well as WMATA Emergency Management, Automatic Train Control, Car Maintenance, and Kawasaki personnel.

The derailment was reported over the diamond interlocking by signal A99/26. The train was intended to receive a straight-through move from A99/26 signal to A15/36 signal at Shady Grove station.

A diesel locomotive known as a Prime Mover from within the Shady Grove rail yard was dispatched to begin re-railing the train car once the incident investigation completed.

Second incident shuts down

A separate incident in which smoke was seen emanating from the Shady Grove rail yard Traction Power Station (TPS) was reported at approximately 7am. All power to the yard was brought down to allow WMATA Power crews and MCFRS to investigate.

During this time, handbrakes were applied to multiple cars on unsecured trains stored in the rail yard and train moves within the yard were halted.

The yard was reenergized at around 7:45am.

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Rail Transit OPS Group is an independent, publicly-funded organization 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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Track defect found overnight disrupts morning Orange, Silver, and Blue line train service

At about 4:00 AM EDT on Thursday, November 2, 2017, a track defect was reported on the elevated inbound track of the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines enroute to Stadium-Armory station. The defect was severe enough to require immediate removal of the track from service.

Trains single-tracked between Stadium-Armory and Cheverly Blvd/Addison Rd stations until just after 6 AM, delaying passengers traveling during rush hour.

The “level black” track defect was found in the elevated “D&G” area, where the Orange line diverges from the Silver/Blue lines. Track inspectors measured over 140 inches between effective track fasteners at D2 279+50 in the D&G “pocket track”, which meant that there was a higher than acceptable risk of a possible derailment or other incident. Fasteners are the parts of the track which hold the two parallel rails in place.

The level back defect was reported around 4 AM during a track inspection. The late nature of this report meant that morning rail service in the area was affected while repairs were being made. Silver line trains were cut back to running only between Wiehle-Reston and Ballston stations until 6 AM, and Orange and Blue lines were single-tracked and saw delays up to around 12 minutes.

This section of track was previously inspected on Wednesday, November 1, 2017 between 10:05 AM and 11:20 AM. No TRST-1000 Revision 6 color-coded speed restriction was implemented at the time.

The D&G area of track is within the location of the SafeTrack Surge 2 area, which stretched from Eastern Market to Minnesota Ave/Benning Rd stations. The 16-day surge shut down both tracks to allow for switch replacement and other trackwork, including the replacement of 2,116 fasteners. However, we cannot definitively say at this time if the defective fasteners identified Thursday morning were new as of the SafeTrack program.

A separate level black defect was identified overnight on the outbound track in approach to Rosslyn station, but was resolved before revenue service began at 5 AM Thursday morning.

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

Cracked Rail on Orange/Silver Line

At about 8:30AM EDT on Tuesday, October 31, 2017, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC) received an indication of a track circuit failure on the outbound track of the Orange/Silver line between Ballston and East Falls Church stations. Several trains performed visual inspections while traveling outbound.

At about 9:25AM, an Emergency Response Team (ERT) that had been dispatched to the location identified a crack in the rail approximately 4,994 feet east of the end of the platform edge at East Falls Church on the outbound track. Trains began single-tracking at 9:25AM between Ballston and East Falls Church via the inbound track. Single-track operations lasted until approximately 11:05AM.

The interim repair performed involved the installation of a joint bar to hold the two portions of the rail in correct alignment until a permanent repair is completed. A jumper cable was also installed to allow the track circuit to remain operational for transmitting speed commands to trains.

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

Morning rush hour delays on the OR/SV/BL lines, October 23rd

Two track defects identified overnight Saturday caused Orange, Silver, and Blue line trains to experience up to around 15 minutes of delay Monday morning as they traversed eastbound through the rail system into DC. The delays were caused by a 15mph speed restriction departing Rosslyn towards Foggy Bottom, which caused congestion and forced trains to hold at various stations.

A MetroAlert was issued at 8:57 am the morning of the 23rd notifying riders to expect delays due to a “track condition” affecting 1900 feet of track. WMATA later created a service alert page to keep passengers updated, and used this link in responses to questions tweeted at their service accounts.

The Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC) first began notifying operators of the speed restriction at 4:58 am Monday morning after an operator reported that she had low (15mph) speed readouts upon departing Rosslyn.

The 1900-foot slow speed restriction was put in place Saturday morning just after 4 am for two separate track defects:

  • Five defective fasteners between chain markers C1 125 and C1 126
  • Eight defective fasteners between chain markers C1 131 and C1 132

Upon discovering the defects, WMATA track crews requested to bring in a Prime Mover to the area in order to address the restriction.

Within around 15 minutes of the ‘major track defect’ having been identified, ROCC began clearing a route for the closest-available Prime Mover, located near Stadium-Armory, to be able to travel down to Rosslyn to begin fixing the issue. The work where the Prime Mover was located was then canceled, as the unit was required to complete the work.

The slow speed restriction remained in place when the system opened at 7 am on Saturday and continued to be in effect through Monday.

After issuing the restriction Saturday morning, Automatic Train Control (ATC) personnel implemented “slow speed couplers,” which can automatically force trains to slow to 15mph in the affected area. This automatic speed reduction procedure increased the length of the slow speed restriction from 1900 feet to just over 3,325 feet.

The implementation of the restriction effectively doubled the time it took trains to transit from Rosslyn to Foggy Bottom from around 2 minutes 3.5-4 minutes, according to speed data provided by MetroHero. Delays caused by this restriction were not noticed on Saturday or Sunday due to relatively-low level of train traffic, compared to a weekday rush hour period. Trains were slowed in the defect area, but were able to speed back up and remain on schedule by the time they reached Foggy Bottom.

A screenshot of a MetroHero graphic showing trip times for Orange/Silver line trains from Ballston to Metro Center in the 7 am hour show trip travel times constantly exceeded the expected trip time.

This “squiggly chart” shows Silver Line trays in silver leaving Wiehle following their set schedule (the black slanted lines) as they travel towards McLean in the direction of Largo in the 8 am hour. The further the silver line deviates from the black line, the more off-schedule the train is.

WMATA track personnel performed an inspection of the defect area during the mid-day period on Monday, October 23rd, but released no further information about what was found or further plan of action.

Overnight trackwork Monday evening appears to have fixed the fastener issue outside Rosslyn, and removed the restriction. Trains were moving normally Tuesday morning as rush hour progressed.

Appendix A: The MetroHero data

better-before.PNG

Screenshot of MetroHero raw travel data for trains from Rosslyn to Foggy Bottom (track C1 only) on October 20th. The average trip time is just under 2 minutes.

after.PNG

Screenshot of MetroHero raw travel data for trains from Rossyn to Foggy Bottom on Sunday October 21st. The average trip time has jumped to over 3 minutes after implementation of the slow speed restriction departing Rosslyn.

Appendix B: Select ROCC OPS2 transcripts

[04:58 October 23, 2017]

Train 611: Central, 611, when leaving Rosslyn 1 the speed readouts are 15mph until you get to C1 111+00

ROCC: Roger that, 611, we got those couplers turned in [that area]

Train 611: Oh, we going to have fun today. That’s like half the distance in between Rosslyn and Foggy!

[05:53 October 23, 2017]

ROCC: Attention all operators, we have couplers turned track 1 between Foggy Bottom and Rosslyn. If you’re holding for any reason in that area, make the appropriate announcement to your customers. Track 1 between Foggy Bottom and Rosslyn, couplers are turned.

Special thanks to Luke B. and those that reported slow speeds between Rosslyn & Foggy Bottom for their contributions to this report.

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

Event Review on Blue Line Train 416 offload at Crystal City on August 2, 2017

On Wednesday, August 2, 2017 at about 5:50 p.m. EDT, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Blue Line Train 416 was offloaded at Crystal City due to a failure of the public address and passenger emergency intercom systems. During the offload process, the train operator and a rail car maintenance employee were rushed by the radio controller in the Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC) to move the train. This resulted in preventing all passengers from exiting the train upon the initial offload attempt at Crystal City. All remaining passengers were offloaded at the following station, National Airport. Rail Transit OPS is concerned that the ROCC radio controller was prioritizing maintaining revenue service over the safety of removing passengers from a defective train.

WMATA Blue Line Train 416 was an eight car train with a lead car of 7096 which departed Largo Town Center at 4:53 p.m. en route to Franconia-Springfield. The train operator reported problems with the public address system, and a rail car maintenance employee boarded the train at Metro Center to attempt to troubleshoot the malfunction. As the train serviced the Pentagon station, the car maintenance employee reported to the ROCC controller that the train was experiencing a failure of the public address system, passenger emergency intercoms, and destination signs.

Blue Line trains change between two different ROCC territories and different sets of rail traffic controllers between Arlington Cemetery and Pentagon.

At 5:47 p.m., Train 416 was instructed by the ROCC radio controller to offload the train at Crystal City. Since the public address system was not functioning, the train operator and rail car maintenance employee were required to physically enter each of the eight rail cars to instruct passengers to exit the train. Two minutes later at 5:49 p.m., the ROCC radio controller instructed Train 416 to continue on in order to move the train into the center track at National Airport. This was over the protest of both the train operator and rail car maintenance employee, who stated that passengers were still exiting the train.

At 5:50 p.m., the ROCC controller again contacted Train 416 with “it’s rush hour sir” and instructed the operator of Train 416 to “close and continue” three times. The train operator stated that he couldn’t close the doors on people while they were still exiting the train. The ROCC controller then again instructed the train operator to close the doors. Passengers still aboard the train in multiple rail cars were therefore unable to exit the train at Crystal City. Immediately following the transmission, the ROCC controller contacted a rail supervisor to re-instruct the operator of 416 for not moving the train at Crystal City.

Train 416 arrived at National Airport and all remaining passengers exited the train, which was verified clear at 5:54 p.m.

At 6:07 p.m. Train 416 departed National Airport without passengers onboard, en route to Alexandria Yard by way of Franconia-Springfield.

Findings:

  • Train 416 operator was following correct procedures during this event.
  • Railcar maintenance employees were following correct procedures during this event.
  • ROCC OPS3 controllers were seemingly more concerned about maintaining schedule adherence than about the safety of passengers exiting a train with a non-functioning public address system.
  • Had the ROCC controllers allowed Train 416 to complete its offload at Crystal City, there would have been no confusion among the passengers who remained stuck aboard the train an extra stop.

 

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