How long will an incident take?

Incidents happen on the railroad with varying severity, from door issues to brake problems, single-tracking, and trains hitting people. While each situation is unique, they typically follow the same general timeline. Our attempt here is not to predict exactly what will happen, but to shed light onto what actions need to happen and how long service might be impacted.

WMATA fatal passenger strike

A fatal train strike typically means that service will be disrupted for approximate hours.

Upon report of a person struck, service at the station (especially side-platform stations) will be suspended to allow emergency personnel access to the trackbed. They will attempt to initially extract the person if they are under the train, but if there are no signs of life, then the operation becomes one of recovery.

Once on scene, Metro Transit Police will take over control and assist/initiate EMS efforts. One those finish, they will ensure the scene is investigated, photographed, and documented as needed.

When the scene is turned over to WMATA Rail Transportation, track personnel will inspect the tracks to check for any potential damage, and plant maintenance personnel will clean the trackbed.

MARC/Amtrak train fatal pedestrian strike in Maryland (3-track territory)

When a pedestrian strike is reported, all service on the affected line is suspended for fire department and emergency medical service personnel to gain access to the roadway and perform their jobs.

Around two hours after the incident occurred, service may begin to be restored. The track the incident occurred on as well as any directly adjacent track will remain out of service for investigation and inspection activities, but one or two other tracks in the area may reopen for train movement. Delays at this point likely will average around ~1 to 1.5 hours.

Significant delays for trains should be expected for around three to four hours after the incident occurred, depending on the length of the investigation required. Delays seen in the past have been approximately two hours for some trains on the Penn line.

Some trains likely will continue to be canceled four to five hours after the incident due to congestion and delays due to the limited open trackage available.

Until all tracks reopen, trains will experience delays due to congestion from other delayed trains.


February 28 Service Suspension on Orange and Silver Lines and Uncommanded Movement of WMATA Train 916

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Orange Line Train 916 became disabled and unable to release its brakes at the Ballston station at approximately 7:12 a.m. on Wednesday, February, 2018. Train 916 was a six-car train with cars 5003-5002-5187-5186-5172-5173 en route from Vienna to New Carrollton.

Upon berthing at Ballston, Train 916 entered a condition called Brakes In Emergency (BIE) which meant the operator was unable to release its brakes. WMATA personnel performed initial troubleshooting to attempt to recharge the brake pressure on the train; they offloaded passengers from the train once determining they were unable to do so.

A brake trouble light was found on car 5187, and the brakes in that car were disabled in order to attempt to get the train to move; the troubleshooting was unsuccessful.

An eight-car Silver Line train following behind Train 916 (Train 619 with cars 7362-7363-7063-7062-7440-7441-7415-7414) was instructed to offload at Ballston by placing one door on the platform and allowing passengers to walk through to exit to the platform.

Orange and Silver Line trains began singlet-tracking between East Falls Church and Ballston at 7:24 a.m. Inbound trains were first to single-track by crossing over at East Falls Church from the inbound to outbound tracks using switch 1, and then crossing from the outbound back to the inbound track at Ballston by way of switch 3.

At approximately 7:32 a.m., Train 912 heading inbound had serviced the Ballston outbound platform, closed its doors, and was switching over tracks to continue normally to Virginia Square (figure 1). Train 611 was on the platform at Ballston and was next in line to cross over at the interlocking to follow 912 (figure 2).

At the same time while the operator of Train 916 was in the process of troubleshooting and preparing for recovery by Train 619, the train began to roll forward without any input from the operator. Train 916 stopped approximately 200 feet beyond the end of the platform at which point it had passed a red signal (K04-02). The signal was red because the Ballston interlocking was aligned to allow Train 611 traveling in the direction of Largo on the opposite track (Track 2) to cross over to the inbound track (Track 1) in front of Train 916.

After reporting the uncommanded train movement to Rail Operations Central Control (ROCC), the WMATA personnel on the train were instructed to re-enable the brakes on the train which had previously been disabled; this was to regain control of the train and ensure that it stopped.

The lead car of Train 916 came to rest about 25 feet short of switch 3A (figure 2), fouling the Ballston interlocking. Rail service was suspended between Clarendon and East Falls Church while crews inspected the switches and train to determine if any damage or derailment had occurred.

WMATA personnel determined there were no injuries, derailment, or other damage to either the switches or the train during the incident.

The entire incident lasted from 7:12 a.m. to 8:37 a.m. when rail service was restored between East Falls Church and Clarendon. Trains 916 and 619 coupled successfully at Ballston and the disabled train was taken to West Falls Church Yard for further investigation to determine why the train lost brake pressure.



Figure 1: Estimated Location of trains at Ballston at 7:32 AM from DC Metro Hero


Figure 2: Estimated Location of Trains in the area of Ballston at about 7:31-7:33 AM

Editor’s note: This post was updated at 9:35 a.m. on Mach 6 to add additional information about the brake trouble indicator found on car 5187.


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.

Recommendation to WMATA Regarding Potential Third Rail Condition

January 30, 2018

On January 25th and January 29th, two Vienna bound WMATA Orange Line trains experienced a brakes in emergency (BIE) condition while approaching the Stadium-Armory station, requiring both trains to be recovered by another. In light of this, Rail Transit OPS Group recommends the following:

  • Perform an immediate detailed inspection of the contact (third) rail on the inbound track over a distance of 3,000 feet from Chain Marker D2 245 to D2 275.
  • Until the results of the inspection are complete, implement absolute block procedures from signal D98/32 to Stadium-Armory platform to restrict trains to one at a time in the area of concern.
  • Perform a detailed inspection of rail cars 3060-3061; these cars were in both trains involved.

Events that preceded this recommendation:

On Thursday, January 25, 2018 at about 5:28 p.m., Orange Line Train 919 consisting of six 3000 series cars enroute to Vienna lost brake pipe pressure while in approach to Stadium-Armory station, came to a stop, entered a condition known as Brakes in Emergency in the approximate area of Chain Marker D2 250+00, and had to be recovered by another train.

On Monday, January 29, 2018 at 6:59 a.m., Orange Line to Vienna Train 919, also consisting of six 3000 series cars, experienced an identical malfunction in the same track circuit.

During our review of train movements through the area, eight car trains that stopped in the circuit were unaffected, as were trains that continued moving.


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.

Recommended Alternate Service Plan for WMATA Red Line following 1/15/18 Derailment

Due to the derailment of WMATA Red Line Train 106 on the morning of Monday, January 15, 2018, and to accommodate incident investigation and any repair work, Rail Transit OPS Group is recommending to WMATA the following alternate service plan for Red Line service for as long as necessary:

  • Operate Red Line trains at 12 minute headways in two segments: from Shady Grove to Farragut North, and from Glenmont to Union Station
  • Operate a single eight-car “shuttle train” from Union Station to Farragut North via the Shady Grove track (opposite the incident track) with an operator on both ends of the train to minimize turnaround time at Union Station and Farragut North
  • Recommend that passengers on the Glenmont segment that need to access the Blue, Orange, Silver, Yellow, or Green lines transfer at Fort Totten
  • Add several “tripper” Yellow Line trains to originate from Greenbelt during the peak of morning rush hour; similarly, have “tripper” trains go back to Greenbelt during the peak of evening rush hour

We chose Union Station and Farragut North as terminals for the shuttle train in part due to those stations’ center platforms (as opposed to side platforms); riders transferring from Red Line trains originating from Shady Grove or Glenmont to the shuttle train at Farragut North or Union Station, respectively, could conveniently walk straight across the center platform to the shuttle train to continue their trip, as opposed to having to take elevators or escalators to another platform at the same station.

While this service plan reduces the frequency of Red Line trains and may require some riders to transfer twice to access other lines instead of just once, it would eliminate the need for single tracking and thus help minimize delays, allowing WMATA to schedule more consistent service for its customers.


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.

Preliminary Statement on 1/15/18 Derailment of WMATA Red Line Train 106

This is a preliminary statement. The information below is subject to change as this is an ongoing investigation.

On Monday, January 15, 2018 at approximately 6:27AM EST, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Red Line Train 106 originating from Shady Grove station and enroute to Glenmont station derailed while traveling from Farragut North station to Metro Center station. Train 106 departed Farragut North at approximately 6:26AM and, after traveling about 2,200 feet and reaching an estimated maximum speed of about 39 MPH, came to a stop after the operator reported a loss of train propulsion and being unable to release the train’s brakes. WMATA personnel who responded to the incident reported light smoke was visible from Metro Center station, and DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services (DCFEMS) was notified around 6:28AM.

Train 106 consisted of the following eight railcars (in order of direction of travel): 7306, 7307, 7305, 7304, 7214, 7215, 7315, and 7314; 7214, 7215, and 7315 (cars 5, 6, and 7) derailed. Train 106 was carrying 64 individuals, none of whom are reported to have sustained any major injuries. Damage to the tracks, tunnel, and railcars have yet to be determined. The 64 individuals aboard the train were evacuated to Metro Center via the trackbed at about 8:00AM, approximately 90 minutes after the incident.

Edit: This original version of this preliminary statement asserted that the first seven cars of the incident train derailed. This was based on initial information from DCFEMS and was incorrect. We’ve since corrected this post; according to WMATA, only cars 5, 6, and 7 of the incident train derailed.


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.