Rail Transit OPS Grosvenor Turnback Elimination Capability Report

For immediate release to the public. Submitted to the WMATA Board July 25th, 2018.

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Rail Transit OPS Statement on WMATA 7000-Series Announcement Changes

Early in the week of July 8, 2018, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) began instructing some 7000-series train operators to make a new manual announcement to riders: “This is a 7000-series train.” This additional announcement comes in response to three separate incidents in which visually impaired individuals fell into gaps between 7000-series train cars due to unique aspects of its design.

Rail Transit OPS disagrees with WMATA’s implementation of this new procedure. The announcement does not identify the difference between a door and an inter-car gap any more than the current automated announcement sequence does, and therefore does not increase safety or mitigate risk. The announcement also appears to assume that all riders, both commuters and tourists alike, already know the features and characteristics of a 7000-series railcar, specifically that the gap between these cars can pose a hazard.

As an interim solution, we recommend this manual announcement be replaced with “Please use caution when boarding or exiting this train” until this same announcement can be added to the existing automatic announcement sequence of all 7000-series railcars. Similar automated announcements have been added in the past to these cars to warn riders of uneven platform surfaces at both the Braddock Road and Rhode Island Avenue stations, so this is technically feasible relatively quickly.

As a secondary recommendation, Rail Transit OPS also suggests the automated announcements of 7000-series railcars be modified to announce which side train doors will open on in approach to each station to match the manual announcements already made by operators of legacy (2K/3K/6K-series) trains. This would deliver a more consistent rider experience and, more importantly, further assist some of those same customers who are also currently at risk of falling between inter-car gaps.

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Rail Transit OPS Group is an independent organization that monitors rail transit operations, performance, and safety procedures to proactively address potential issues. Rail Transit OPS is supported solely from independent contributions by individuals like you. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Preliminary Report: 6/30/18 – Incorrect Routing of Green Line Train

On Saturday, June 30, 2018 at about 6:18 p.m., Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Green Line Train 502 (T-502) headed from Greenbelt to Branch Avenue was incorrectly routed through two switches while in approach to the Fort Totten Metrorail station. The train came to rest in the non-revenue, single-track connector known as the B&E, which links the Red Line to the outbound Green Line.

The train operator of T-502 reversed operating ends of the train twice in order to move the train from the connector track back to the outbound Green Line track, then cross over to the inbound track where it should have been. This resulted in a 12-minute delay for the train’s passengers.

There were no injuries or damage during the incident. There was also no risk of a collision as, although the routing was incorrect for this particular train, it is a legitimate and viable routing; the Automatic Train Protection (ATP) system is designed to halt any conflicting train movements if any are detected.

Based on the information that is available to us, we believe the probable cause of this incident is human error on the part of both the train operator of T-502 and the Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC) staff.

The operator of T-502 failed to properly scan the tracks ahead and identify the first incorrect switch setting, which allowed the train to cross over from Track 2 (the inbound track) to Track 1 (the outbound track) on the Green Line. The second switch took the train from Track 1 to the B&E (connector track). These switches are protected by signals E06-08 (which protects movement from Track 2 to Track 1 under normal train traffic) and E06-52 (which protects movement from Track 1 to the B&E), respectively.

Both signals identified above should have been showing a ‘flashing lunar’ aspect, i.e. a white flashing light indicating that the switch is aligned for a diverging route to the other track. Additionally, the operator should have recognized that the speed commands being sent to their train indicated a reduced top speed of 28 MPH before the first switch; this speed is one of a small subset indicative of a impending crossover move, which could have alerted the operator to the incorrect routing. The operator of T-502 should have stopped the train upon seeing the flashing lunar at E06-08 and contacted the ROCC.

It is unclear why the switches were aligned for the movement T-502 took, as no trains utilized that route immediately prior to T-502. The ROCC controller should have identified earlier that the signal E06-52 was showing a proceed indication, which would be an unusual occurrence during normal operations.

Images below are from our partner DCMetroHero displaying the movements of Train 502 into the B&E Connector

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Rail Transit OPS Group is an independent organization that monitors rail transit operations, performance, and safety procedures to proactively address potential issues. Rail Transit OPS is supported solely from independent contributions by individuals like you. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Preliminary Report: 6/5/18 – WMATA Red Line Incident at Forest Glen Station

This is a preliminary review and as such is subject to change as our review continues.

At about 5:05pm EDT on Tuesday, June 5, 2018, Glenmont-bound Red Line Train 133, consisting of six 3000-series cars, experienced a separation of a roof-mounted HVAC access panel (located on the ends) on the lead pair of cars—3213 and 3212—while in approach to Forest Glen station.

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Modified image of the top of a 3000-series railcar (not the incident train). The top HVAC access panel has been outlined in red. Original image: Flickr/Bossi

At about 5:13pm, Glenmont-bound Red Line Train 152, also consisting of six 3000-series cars, made contact with this panel while in approach to Forest Glen station, resulting in smoke as the panel made contact with the electrified third rail.

Red Line trains single-tracked between Silver Spring and Forest Glen from 5:14pm to 9:23pm. Outbound service was disrupted at the beginning of the incident from 5:14pm to 5:51pm.

There were no reported injuries. Six rail cars sustained minor damage, while one sustained moderate damage.

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Rail Transit OPS Group is an independent organization that monitors rail transit operations, performance, and safety procedures to proactively address potential issues. Rail Transit OPS is supported solely from independent contributions by individuals like you. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Preliminary Report: 5/31/18 – WMATA Red Line Service Suspension Due to Arcing Insulator

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Red Line train service was suspended between Farragut North and Gallery Place on Thursday, May 31 from approximately 10:15 a.m. until 10:48 a.m. after a train operator reported seeing fire on the trackbed.

At 10:09 a.m., the operator of 6-car Train 153 (T-153) en route from Metro Center to Farragut North in the direction of Shady Grove stopped approximately 2,100 feet outside of Metro Center and reported seeing a fire on the roadway. The train operator then requested permission to utilize a fire extinguisher to put it out. Upon hearing the report, the Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC) Rail Traffic Controller (RTC) called for several rail supervisors, instructing them to head towards the location of the reported fire.

The operator of T-153 was instructed at 10:10 a.m. to shut off the environmental (EV) system on the train—HVAC—and then instructed to reverse ends on the train. This would allow the operator to move the train back towards Metro Center.

WMATA ROCC suspended Red Line service at 10:15 a.m. and began holding trains in preparation to use Gallery Place and Farragut North as temporary terminals. Trains would offload and reverse back in the directions they came from. None would be allowed to pass between Farragut North and Metro Center.

At 10:15 a.m., the operator of T-153 reported to the ROCC that he had reversed ends on the train, and that the fire was now visible from the Glenmont-side operators cab, approximately five feet away. The operator requested to use a fire extinguisher to put out the fire, but was instructed by the ROCC to reverse ends again to the Shady Grove-side operating cab.

As the operator of T-153 was walking through the train, he received a report from a customer that a person had exited the train. Two minutes later at 10:21 a.m., the operator was instructed to consolidate passengers on the train into the lead car, which was the furthest from the reported track fire. The ROCC RTC further instructed the operator to perform a ground walkaround [1] of the train. The operator would be unable to make announcements to passengers on the train while on the ground.

The DC Fire/EMS command post with Battalion Chief 6 was set up outside Metro Center by 10:23 a.m., and WMATA Emergency Response Team (ERT) personnel arrived at Metro Center at 10:26 a.m., 17 minutes after the initial incident report.

At approximately the same time, the operator of T-153 finished their ground walkaround, saw no passengers on the roadway that had exited the train, and was returning to the lead (Shady Grove) car of the train. The operator reported that he saw “light smoke” while performing the ground walkaround.

WMATA ERT was granted permission to walk on the roadway towards the reported location of the fire, 1,600 feet outbound of Metro Center (A2 019+00) at 10:27 a.m., and the ROCC instructed the T-153 operator to apply a handbrake to the lead car of the train in preparation to de-energize the third rail in the incident area.

At 10:32 a.m., T-153’s operator reported that a handbrake had been applied to the lead car of the train (3209), and the ROCC reported at 10:33 a.m. that third rail on the affected track had been de-energized.

At 10:34 a.m., ERT personnel reported that a burnt insulator which previously had been arcing had been removed; permission was given to the ROCC to restore third rail power so that T-153 could be moved to Farragut North.

T-153’s operator reported the handbrake on 3209 was removed at 10:41 a.m., and the train berthed at Farragut North by 10:43 a.m. to continue towards Shady Grove in revenue service.

Rail service on the inbound track from Farragut North to Metro Center was restored at 10:44 a.m., while rail service from Metro Center towards Farragut North was restored at 10:47 a.m.

Notable Events

  • Train 153 was in the tunnel between Metro Center and Farragut North for approximately 34 minutes
  • We believe WMATA ERT personnel removed debris from the trackbed when the burnt insulator was also removed; the debris could have caught fire from arcing on the insulator
  • Passengers aboard T-153 reported smelling smoke while the train was in the tunnel, and reported limited communications from the operator [2]
  • Third rail power remained energized approximately 24 minutes after the start of the incident
  • Intermittent radio issues in the area where T-153 was held caused difficulties in communicating between the train operator, the ROCC, and ERT personnel
  • T-153’s operator spent approximately five minutes outside the train from 10:21 to 10:26 a.m. performing a ground walkaround after a passenger reported a person exiting the train in the tunnel
  • The WMATA ROCC announced that fans in the incident area were activated at approximately 10:15 a.m. (Rail Transit OPS is unable to verify the direction of fan activation)

Findings

  • WMATA Red Line service was promptly halted on both tracks in the affected area
  • The operator of T-153 did not clearly identify the location of the train, nor the location of the reported fire when reporting it to the ROCC, both of which caused reversing the train’s direction to take longer than necessary; had the operator of T-153 reported that the train was past the source of fire, the ROCC could have allowed T-153 to continue to Farragut North
  • WMATA ERT personnel did not properly verify that they had permission from the WMATA ROCC before beginning their work to remove the defective insulator
  • Communications and coordination between the ROCC and the Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD) appeared to be poorly executed and organized
    • MTPD personnel were not dispatched to respond to the incident until 10:21 a.m., 12 minutes after it was reported to the ROCC
    • MTPD officers had not confirmed until approximately 10:31 a.m. that there was a train (T-153) in the tunnel between Metro Center and Farragut North in the area affected by the reported track fire

[1] A ground walkaround is when an operator exits a train and physically walks around all sides of the train while on the roadway. This procedure is part of the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) before a train leaves a rail yard to be put into revenue service, or when an Emergency Door Release (EDR) is broken.

[2] https://twitter.com/jordandenari/status/1002214925236948992, https://twitter.com/AnthroPaulicy/status/1002219224771723265

This is a preliminary incident report, and information is subject to change.

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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.