Combined Event Summary of Incorrect Routing of Two WMATA Trains at Rosslyn Station

This is a combined preliminary summary describing the events surrounding the incorrect routing of two Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) trains at the Rosslyn station on August 27th and August 28th.

View of Rosslyn station looking outbound at the switch involved. Note there are two signals guarding the switch (displaying a white lunar aspect) Photo by Rail Transit OPS member Stephen Repetski

Event 1:

On Monday, August 27, 2018 at about 6:42 AM EDT WMATA Train 612 with a destination of Wiehle-Reston East serviced the Rosslyn station. Upon departure from the station Train 612 was supposed to take the switch located outbound of the station in the direction of Court House station. However, Train 612 continued straight following the Blue Line Route towards Arlington Cemetery. After passing the switch, the operator of Train 612 contacted the Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC) to inform the ROCC of the incorrect routing and was instructed to continue to Arlington Cemetery.

Rail Transit OPS Group believes the probable cause of the incident was the loss of situational awareness by the operator of Train 612 for not properly scanning the switch prior to passing the switch.

Contributing factors include the likely failure of the operator to enter the correct destination code on the train console. Based on preliminary information available from Metro Hero (via the original WMATA Application Programming Interface [API]), the train was transmitting a code relating to the Glenmont Rail Yard. Also contributing was the failure of the ROCC to identify and address the the incorrect destination code prior to the train reaching the Rosslyn station.

Event 2:

On Tuesday, August 28, 2018 at about 11:06 AM EDT WMATA Train 409 with a destination of Franconia-Springfield departed the Rosslyn station with its next planned station being Arlington Cemetery. Train 409 took an incorrect routing at the switch and traveled towards Court House station on the Orange and Silver Lines. The operator of Train 409 contacted the ROCC after having taken the incorrect routing. The ROCC instructed the operator of Train 409 to continue to Court House and offload the train and allow the passengers to travel back to Rosslyn to resume their trips.

Rail Transit OPS Group believes the probable cause to be loss of situational awareness by both the train operator of Train 409 for not properly scanning the position of the switch prior to passing it as well as the ROCC controller for failing to verify the correct routing at Rosslyn. This would be a necessary action as the automatic routing controls governing the C05-06 signal were disabled at the time.

Contributing to the incident was a heavy radio workload for the controllers in the ROCC at the time: transmissions for setting routing for trains at Rosslyn, managing track inspections, and communicating with track department personnel simultaneously. During the incident with Train 409, ROCC controllers were making multiple transmissions to multiple individuals, which could contribute to a loss of situational awareness.

In regard to both of the above incidents, there were no injuries, no damage to tracks or equipment, and at no time was the Automatic Train Protection (ATP) subsystem of Automatic Train Control (ATC) compromised, meaning there was no risk of a collision; ATP is programmed to prevent collisions with other trains regardless of the destination or direction of trains by detecting their presence through the rail system via track circuits.

With regards to Automatic Train Operation (ATO), the Automatic Train Supervision (ATS) subsystem would have verified that the route selected matches the destination entered on the train console and transmitted from the train, thus the August 27th incident should not have occurred if ATO were in use. However, the August 28th incident would likely have still occurred as the automatic routing system was disabled at Rosslyn, leaving the setting of the switches up to the ROCC controllers.

RECOMMENDATION:

Review operating training procedures to ensure train operators properly scan switch points for proper alignment.

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Rail Transit OPS Group provides independent evaluations of rail transit operations, performance, and safety processes as part of its dual mission: monitor and evaluate rail transit operators’ adherence to these processes, and provide additional information during service disruptions.

Rail Transit OPS’ business operations are funded by individual contributions from the public. To support our operations visit us at railtransitops.org/support. You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @RailTransitOPS.

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Statement on 8/1/17 Hard Coupling at West Falls Church Yard

At about 6:28A EDT, on Tuesday, August 1, 2017, two Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) rail cars experienced a hard coupling while moving into a shop at the West Falls Church Yard located north of the West Falls Church station and Interstate 66. A hard coupling is when two rail cars are coupled together at a speed greater than desired, typically in excess of four to five miles per hour. There was minimal damage and no injuries.

At the time of the incident, WMATA personnel were in the process of moving a four-car train to couple with a two-car train on track 18W, which leads into one of six shop bays at the yard. The moving four-car train was being operated under the "proceed" method, which involves a flagman guiding the train and is typically utilized when a train is being operated from a car other than the lead car.

As the moving train approached the stationary train, the flagman called over the radio to stop, followed by several urgent and repeated commands to stop. Before the train could come to a complete stop however, car 3083 made a hard coupling with car 3186.

This incident is being reviewed by the WMATA Safety Department. Below are Rail Transit OPS' preliminary findings.

Probable Cause: We believe the probable cause of this incident to be the failure of the train operator and flagman to follow established WMATA policy for vehicle movement into and out of maintenance shops.

Contributing Factor(s):

  • Failure to follow established WMATA policy (MSRPH SOP 12) regarding yard moves
  • Failure to follow established safety stops at fifty feet and ten feet (MSRPH 12.5.4.1)
  • Failure to maintain vehicle speed and be able to stop short of any obstruction (MSRPH 12.5.1.10)

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Event Summary: Track Defect on Blue/Orange/Silver Line noted on 08.05.16

Event Date:  Friday, August 5, 2016

Event Time:  1:08 PM EDT

Railroad Involved: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

Event Location: Blue/Orange/Silver Line D&G Junction Switch 13 (D1 277-283+00)

Event ID: 16.0212

Event Type: Track Defect

On Friday, August 5, 2016 at about 1:08 PM EDT a track unit inspecting a section of WMATA D route elevated structure between Stadium-Armory and Minnesota Av noted several broken stud bolts which anchor the running rails at switch 13 which governs diverging traffic between the Orange Line (D) and Blue/Silver Lines (G). A ten mile per hour speed restriction was placed into effect for twelve hundred (1,200) feet of track around the affected area until permanent repairs were completed.

Factual Timeline of Friendship Heights Smoke Incident (16-0125)

Train 107 was an 8-car Red Line train running in service from Glenmont station to Shady Grove station the evening of Saturday April 23rd, 2016. In approach to Friendship Heights at 7:17pm EDT, the train encountered smoke which started to enter the train. The train was reversed back to Tenleytown and passengers were offloaded by 7:36pm. The incident remains under WMATA investigation. DC Fire and EMS reported that there were no injuries and no passengers requested a hospital transport.

This report is intended to be a factual timeline of the events of the Friendship Heights incident. A follow-up report will analyze the incident management process and offer recommendations to improve the process, if any are found.

Train

7:17p (T+0min): Train Operator of Train 107 reports the lead car of the train is “on fire.” (This is most likely due to a third rail collector shoe that briefly caught fire and fused to the third rail.) The train is stopped approximately 200 feet short of the Friendship Heights platform in the direction of Shady Grove.

7:18p (T+1min): The Train Operator is instructed by the Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC) OPS1 controller to move all passengers from the lead car, where the fire/smoke is visible outside, to cars further back in the train consist.*

7:21p (T+4min): The Train Operator reports the train has lost all doors closed; the train is now unable to move under normal circumstances. Based on passenger interviews, the Emergency Door Release on the lead car in the consist was engaged, causing this. The OPS1 controller requests a ground walkaround from the cushioning Operator, but this is never done.

7:23p (T+6min): A cushioning (off-duty) Train Operator riding aboard T-107 attempts to move the train back to Tenleytown, but is still unable to move the train due to the no all doors closed indication.

7:25p (T+8min): The Friendship Heights Station Manager has by now reported that there is smoke visible in the tunnel outside the station, and that the smoke is headed in the direction of the station.

7:26p (T+9min): Track units working on Track 2 outside Bethesda station due to the earlier insulator and subsequent damage start moving down towards Friendship Heights to help the OPS1 controller deal with the ongoing situation.

7:30p (T+13min): The Train Operator was instructed to cut out Automatic Train Protection, allowing the train to move. The train is given an absolute block to proceed towards Tenleytown at a low speed. The train is not allowed to move faster than approximately 5 mph due to possible self-evacuated passengers in the tunnel or on the roadway.

7:36p (T+19min): T-107 reaches Tenleytown platform 2, berths, and disembarks passengers.

7:41p (T+24min): Friendship Heights station is evacuated for heavy smoke in the station. DC Fire and EMS have been dispatched.

9:00p (T+1h42min): DC Fire and EMS have by now cleared both Tenleytown and Friendship Heights stations.

Service on both Track 1 and Track 2 from Van Ness (A06) to Medical Center (A10) was suspended from the time of the incident to system closing.

9:15p (T+1h57min): T-107 is moved from Tenleytown where it was offloaded to Brentwood Yard.

Track/Repair

7:17p (T+0min): T-107 encounters smoke and fire near chain marker A2 296+00, 200 feet outside of the Friendship Heights station. Conflicting reports say there is either an arcing insulator on the tracks, or the front trucks of the train are on fire.

7:40p (T+23min): A possible arcing insulator is identified at A2 297+00, although the fire is mostly out at that point.

8:13p (T+56min): Power to the third rail is brought down again after additional smoke is seen. Power is confirmed down at 8:15p.

8:19p (T+1h2min): Smoke is reported to be coming out of a mechanical room at Friendship Heights. DC Fire and EMS investigate. It is unknown if this is related to the trackside insulator issues.

8:21p (T+1h4min): Additional track units and a supervisor inspect the A2 third rail and cables from Bethesda to Friendship Heights into the tunnel to Tenleytown.

9:00p (T+1h43min): Melted metal from one of T-107’s collector shoe is found on the third rail; power is brought down in preparation for removal of the excess metal and to clean the third rail.

9:43p (T+2h26min): Track units report that more insulators on the A2 track between Tenleytown and Friendship Heights require replacement, in addition to repairing the collector shoe damage.

10:04p (T+2h47min): Track units report a frayed cable on the A1 track between Friendship Heights and Tenleytown which requires replacement. Track 1 is kept out of service until system closing as Power personnel perform repairs.

Track and Power personnel stay on scene until system closing to perform the necessary repairs. Employees from the Safety department are also on scene. A work unit from Brentwood Yard is requested to Friendship Heights track 2 to return the track to be revenue-ready. The tracks were handed back over from maintenance personnel to ROCC for revenue service at 6:48am EDT on Sunday the 24th.

* The timeline was updated Sunday evening on the 24th to include this event.

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