WMATA Officials Brief Safety Groups About Rail Yard Collision

WASHINGTON — Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority officials met with members of the Federal Transit Administration, National Transportation Safety Board and the Tri-State Oversight Committee and walked them through preliminary information related to a Nv. 29 collision of two trains in the West Falls Church Rail Yard.

The meeting was called by Metro and was a follow-up to personal contact that Metro’s General Manager John Catoe and safety officials made in reaching out to inform officials of the FTA, NTSB and TOC about the accident, WMATA said. The general manager also briefed members of the Metro Board of Directors about the accident.

At least three of Metro’s rail cars were damaged beyond repair during the early morning collision yesterday between two six-car trains in the rail yard. Two of those three rail cars derailed during the accident. All 12 cars sustained some level of damage and Metro’s rail car maintenance officials are continuing to assess the condition of the remaining nine cars to determine if repairs are possible.

New rail cars cost about $3 million each. A total estimate of damages has not been completed.

Three employees sustained minor, non life-threatening injuries and were taken to a nearby hospital where they were treated and released a few hours after a six-car train struck the rear of another six-car train parked inside the West Falls Church Rail Yard at 4:27 a.m. Nov. 29. The employees included the rail car operator and two rail car cleaners who were on the parked train. They suffered bumps, bruises and lacerations as a result of the collision.

Following the collision, Metro’s rail staff began the task of moving the rail cars from the track where the accident took place to be stored elsewhere in the rail yard.

The track was damaged during the accident and once the rail cars are removed Metro officials will measure and gauge the track and then begin to make the track repairs so the tracks can be used again.

Train number 902 was the final train of the night to pull into the rail yard when it struck the last car of a six-car train that was parked in the yard. It was being operated in manual mode, however a train that is operated manually inside a rail yard differs from a train that is operated manually on a “main line” track that is used to provide service to customers.

Trains that are in service along main line track use an automatic train protection system, something that is not available inside Metro’s nine rail yards, WMATA said. Automatic train protection regulates train speeds on Metro’s 106-mile main line tracks.

The operator of train 902 has been a Metro employee since May 2007 and a train operator since November 2008. He is currently on paid administrative leave.