Roadway Worker Protection Violation on July 17, 2018

Executive Summary

At about 11:31AM EDT on Tuesday, July 17, 2018, an eight car Greenbelt bound train (Train 508) approached, and passed track personnel on elevated track 2,800 feet (F1 512.00) after departing Branch Av station at a speed in excess of the current required 10 MPH. Train 508 came to a stop after approximately 7 cars had past the track personnel. There were no injuries during this incident.

Probable Cause

The probable cause for this incident appears to be a failure in communications between the Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC), Advance Mobile Flagger, and the Terminal Supervisor at Branch Av.

In this incident the track personnel were communicating with the ROCC and had requested a train pickup at the incident location, the first train following the request, Train 507 did stop, however the track personnel declined that pickup and requested that the following train pick them up.

At the time of the request the operator of Train 508 was monitoring the Branch Av terminal operations channel, and was unaware of the transmissions made by the ROCC. Based on available data, there was no transmission to the operator of Train 508 that a) there were track personnel ahead b) to stop and pick up the personnel. The AMF that was previously stationed at Branch Av to provide notification had boarded Train 508 to move to Suitland and apparently failed to notify the operator that there were personnel ahead to be picked up. As Train 508 approached the track personnel, the Roadway Worker In Charge (RWIC) instructed for the operator to slow and stop via hand signal. Train 508 came to a stop after the first seven cars passed the track personnel.

Recommendation

Rail Transit OPS recommends the following solutions to mitigate a recurrence in the future:

  1. URGENT – Modify terminal supervisor departure briefings to train operators to include ALL track personnel along the route prior to departure
  2. Place mainline tracks between the final two stations under terminal control.
  3. Require ALL trains to check in to terminal supervisors prior to departing the station before the terminal.
  4. Require any track personnel to dual check in with the terminal supervisor and ROCC prior to entering the mainline tracks between the final two stations.
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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.

    Business Changes Effective July 1st, 2018

    First off, we would like to thank each and every one of you for your support over the past two and a half years. You, the riding public, have been very generous with your time and donations, allowing us to stay focused on our mission: providing you information.

    After careful review, we’ve decided to officially adjust our business operations according to our current availability, financial position, and ridership trends. It is our expectation that the vast majority of you will not notice any changes, however we’ve detailed a summary of what to expect below:

    • Monitoring of WMATA Metrorail on Mondays and Fridays will generally be reduced, especially outside of AM and PM rush hours, e.g. mid-days and nights.
    • Weekend monitoring of WMATA Metrorail will change from continuous monitoring to incident monitoring, i.e. we will only commit to investigating moderate or major incidents in real time after notification from riders or automated MetroHero Alerts.
    • Monitoring of MARC and VRE will be discontinued until further notice.
    • Field audits will be suspended from July 1st thru September 15th, and we will not commit to conducting audits when the outside temperature is below 40 degrees or above 90 degrees. (This will allow us to more generally monitor WMATA Metrorail more efficiently, especially during weather extremes.)
    • We will begin publishing periodic reports to the public on the data we collect during our operations.

    These changes will take effect July 1st, 2018. Altogether, we will be monitoring WMATA Metrorail operations an average of 30 hours per week, and will continue to review incidents as soon as we become aware of them. We expect this to bring our total monthly expenses to about $725, or $36.25 per business day. For context, we currently collect about $180/month via Patreon, which only includes subscriptions and not other generous one-time donations made via other payment services.

    As always, we are open to suggestions via email at contactus@railtransitops.org. You can also message us on Facebook and Twitter. Remember: we are 100% funded by folks like you. If you find our services useful and would like to donate, please click here. Thank you again for your continued support!

    Regards,
    The Rail Transit OPS Team
    www.railtransitops.org