Metro demonstrates safety commitment, compliance with NTSB recommendations, including replacement of 1000 series rail cars
Dozens of safety improvements have been made since 2009 accident
Metro received a formal pre-award approval letter today, July 26, from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for the procurement of the 7000 series rail cars from Kawasaki using Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA) funds, allowing Metro to move forward with a notice to proceed.
Retirement of the 1000 series cars, the oldest in the fleet, is Metro’s number one safety priority. The National Transportation Safety Board recommended that Metro’s 1000 series rail cars, the oldest in the fleet, be replaced with more modern vehicles that will be equipped with advanced crashworthiness systems technology.
Of the 428 new cars, 128 of them will enable the expansion of Metro service on the Dulles rail corridor and 300 of the cars will be used to replace the 1000 series cars, which will improve safety and reliability of Metro’s fleet.
“The award is significant because it allows us to follow through on a key National Transportation Safety Board recommendation, to address our top safety priority and continues to work to improve safety,” said Metro Interim General Manager Richard Sarles.
Metro has conducted a top-to-bottom overhaul of its safety program and taken dozens of actions to build a strong safety culture at the transit agency and improve safety, including implementing NTSB recommendations in advance of the July 27 NTSB Board meeting on the June 22, 2009 train collision at Fort Totten.
“We have begun to see the beginning of a safety culture shift from one that was reactive to one that is proactive in taking steps to solve and correct issues, so that issues don’t become problems,” Sarles said, citing the agency’s decision to pull all 100 of the 4000 series railcars to fix the door motors as an example of a precautionary proactive action that demonstrates the type of commitment to a safety culture the agency is strengthening.
Over the last year, Metro has taken proactive steps to replace and improve its equipment, make changes to its train control system, upgrade its infrastructure, expand safety training, rebuild its safety department and make extensive changes internally to change the Metro safety culture. The agency has proactively addressed real and potential safety concerns; sought advice from and hired experienced transportation safety experts; and implemented a communications strategy that allows the public to track monthly progress through an online vital signs report.
“Just as we have worked proactively and cooperatively with the NTSB to implement recommendations during the last year in advance of the NTSB’s final findings, we stand ready to continue to work with them to build on our progress to date. We are committed to considering and following through on the findings and recommendations,” Sarles said.
Immediately following the June 22, 2009 accident, Metro took the following steps related to its train control system and loss of shunt tool:
• Changed the operations of trains to manual mode.
• Instituted a twice-daily evaluation of its track circuits.
• Established test procedures to identify track circuits susceptible to parasitic
oscillation, which is under review by the NTSB.
• Began work simultaneously, on a real-time 24/7, automatic track circuit monitoring system inclusive of loss of shunt, which is scheduled to be implemented in December 2010.
• When replacing impedance bonds, Metro installs a track circuit module from the same manufacturer, solely as a precautionary measure.
In diligently addressing other NTSB requirements and recommendations, Metro has:
• Approved a contract to replace the 1000 series rail cars with the 7000 series rail cars.
• Begun to install rollback protection on all rail cars. (The 1000 series will be completed by the end of this month.)
• Implemented an aggressive schedule to install guarded switches to decrease risk of a derailment. Metro has installed 114 of 178, with two more to be completed during the Labor Day weekend and an additional two during the Columbus Day weekend with the remainder to be completed by the end of FY 12 as a result of the more aggressive schedule.
• Reorganized the maintenance and engineering divisions within the new Transit Infrastructure and Engineering Services department to ensure better cooperation and improved communication between the two disciplines.
• Established a program to identify rail operators who are at a high risk for sleep disorders.
• Established a new standard for the maintenance of rail car wheels.
• Developed a comprehensive rail lubrication procedure, which is currently being tested.
Just as Metro has taken these actions to date, it is committed to continuing to work with the NTSB on recommendations that are expected to come from the July 27 meeting. The Metro Board of Directors has dedicated more than $30 million in Metro’s capital budget to be used to begin to address the added recommendations over the next three years.
Metro has already followed through on the recommendations received from the FTA’s Audit by revising its Roadway Worker Protection Program / Training, strengthening communication between the General Manager and Chief Safety Officer and increasing safety staffing, resources and training. The FTA has determined that Metro’s response to its audit is “open and acceptable.”
As recommended by the FTA, Metro has retained and started work with independent safety experts to assist with developing a Hazard Management Program, revise the System Safety Program Plan, assess the expertise of the Safety Department, implement a Configuration Management Program, draft recovery plans for internal safety audits and open accidents and improve safety communications across the agency.
From the board room to the platforms, safety has been elevated at all levels of Metro. Among the many actions taken, Metro has:
• Reinforced the role of its safety department, increasing staffing in the department by 40 percent with more than 230 years of experience in safety, incident investigation, training, quality assurance, industrial hygiene, and environment management.
• Established monthly reports to the Board of Directors, who receive public updates on injury rates and incidents, trends, compliance with oversight agency action plans and status reports on safety programs, such as training and implementation of the Safety Measurement System, all of which is posted online for the public’s review.
• Invited the Tri-State Oversight Committee to provide public quarterly reports during the Board’s Customer Service and Safety Committee meetings.
• Implemented Safety Action Report Meetings with the General Manager and front-line superintendants.
• Assigned safety officers in rail yards and bus facilities.
• Increased coordination, communication and reporting with the Tri-State Oversight Committee, including working with the committee on a recent Triennial Audit.
Sarles said that the future success of Metro’s safety program will depend on identifying and preventing hazards from ever occurring. With that, the agency has taken the following measures to create a safety culture focused on prevention within the organization:
• Started development of a new Safety Management System that provides a comprehensive view of all safety-related incidents, tracks the progress of incident investigation and monitors the status of corrective actions.
• Established and publicized an internal safety hotline for employees to anonymously report safety concerns.
• Strengthened its whistleblower protection policy and initiated discussions with its largest union to establish a procedure that encourages reporting of near misses without punitive consequences.
• Established an aggressive investigation focus in the event of any alleged retaliation against employees who report safety violations.
• Conducted a safety culture survey with 97 percent of active employees (9,400) completing the survey, which will serve as a benchmark for improvement.
• Retained independent consultants to complete an assessment of Metro’s safety culture.
With a $1 billion capital spending plan, the largest capital budget since the completion of the 106-mile rail system, Metro is also making other needed equipment and infrastructure improvements focused on maintaining a state of good repair, such as rehabilitating its heavily used Red, Orange and Blue lines.
In addition to working with the NTSB, Metro has also worked with the Tri-State Oversight Committee to close 202 of 256 corrective action plans over the last six years. Safety officials also continue to work with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
News release issued at 1:58 pm, July 26, 2010.