Sarles updates NTSB on numerous safety actions taken by Metro
Initiatives to address recommendations already underway
Metro General Manager Richard Sarles made the following remarks at a joint meeting between the Metro Board of Directors and the National Transportation Safety Board on Monday, August 9, at Metro headquarters :
Chairman Benjamin, Chairman Hersman and members of the WMATA and National Transportation Safety boards, I appreciate the opportunity to brief you on the progress Metro has made in response to the NTSB recommendations we received two weeks ago.
On July 27, I and members of Metro’s executive leadership team were in attendance, listening carefully to the NTSB board meeting proceedings to gain a full understanding of the findings and recommendations. We deeply appreciate the deliberation and careful analysis that went into the investigation and are committed to following through on each recommendation, as well as learning from the NTSB’s observations and findings.
Immediately following the NTSB board meeting, we set out to address each of the 16 recommendations. Within 24 hours of that meeting, I assembled Metro’s senior leadership team and have met with them regularly since then to begin developing a plan to act upon each and every recommendation as quickly as possible.
I’d like to walk through the actions that we are taking in response to each of the NTSB recommendations.
First, with respect to the recommendations for the Metro Board to revise policies and processes to further codify and improve safety oversight of Metro, staff is ready to implement your direction on a revised policy statement on the Board’s oversight of system safety. We are also prepared to join you in amending our mission statement to reflect the Board and management’s renewed commitment to safety. Additionally, as you previously directed, the Chief Safety Officer will report monthly to the Board on our safety progress to date, including responsiveness and compliance with safety oversight agencies, such as the National Transportation Safety Board.
Track Circuit Modules
The NTSB made two recommendations intended to reduce the potential of parasitic oscillation in track circuits.
We have already replaced Alstom modules at 34 locations in the system, are in the process of replacing eight more and are planning to replace modules at the remaining 61 locations. We will soon present the full expedited replacement plan to our Board.
With respect to inspection of track circuit modules, beginning in November we will increase the frequency of our inspections on audio frequency track circuit modules within the rail system from annual to quarterly inspections. We will continue the loss of shunt review twice daily until the testing is completed on the real-time alert system, and we can implement it.
Improving Internal Communications
In response to a recommendation to improve the dissemination of safety-related information, we have developed a cross-functional committee to develop procedures that ensure clear communication and document receipt of all technical bulletins and other safety-related information. We will begin to put these procedures in place within the next 60 days.
The next recommendation from the NTSB addressed the need to remove unnecessary communication equipment along the wayside that might interfere with the automatic train control system.
We are currently working to identify all locations throughout the rail system where unnecessary wayside communication equipment exists, and are developing a plan to disable and/or remove it. We anticipate beginning the first phase of removal by December.
There are two recommendations related to the Automatic Train Control system: to conduct a complete analysis of foreseeable failures and to address the findings of that analysis.
At the Board’s direction, we have retained an independent firm who can perform a rigorous safety analysis of the automatic train control system and provide recommendations to address potential failures identified as a result of the analysis. We are presently working to develop the scope, schedule and budget for the project.
Cable Insulation Resistance Testing
The NTSB also recommended that cable insulation resistance testing become part of our periodic maintenance requirements.
A schedule is being developed to perform nightly cable insulation resistance testing as part of a larger comprehensive cabling maintenance review. We will provide the Board with additional information on the testing schedule.
Federal Transit Administration Final Report
The NTSB recommended that we, in cooperation with the Tri-State Oversight Committee, address the findings of the March 4, 2010, FTA audit.
I am pleased to report that we have submitted our initial response from the recent Federal Transit Administration audit to the Tri-State Oversight Committee in April and provided an update on our activity to the Tri-State Oversight Committee and Federal Transit Administration’s Office of Safety and Security last week. We will submit our status report to the Federal Transit Administration and Tri-State Oversight Committee before the August 30 deadline.
Operational Data on On-Board Recorders
An additional recommendation was that we review data from on-board recorders in trains and the Advanced Information Management system.
Senior staff meets monthly to review data on reliability, maintenance and engineering, and then to develop trend analyses. We will include a review of the data from on-board recorders installed on rail cars in these meetings. Local 689 union representatives have agreed to participate in the meetings as well.
Non-Punitive Safety Reporting Program
The NTSB recommended the establishment of a non-punitive safety reporting program to collect incident reports from across Metro and share the review of those incident reports across the entire organization.
With regard to this recommendation, the Board of Directors took the first step by strengthening the Authority’s whistle-blower protection policy. Management has also established a safety hotline for employees to anonymously report safety concerns. But we want to encourage employees further and ensure that they identify and report problems. To that end, we have initiated discussions with Local 689 to establish a procedure and program for the reporting of near misses without punitive consequences.
Hazard Identification & Hazard Management
The NTSB made two recommendations related to the evaluation of risk and the resolution of corrective actions.
In September, Metro’s Executive Safety Committee which was previously established as the Standing Safety Executive Committee will review hazard identification and hazard management. This process will be included in the System Safety Program Plan. Further, as part of its monthly meetings, the Executive Committee will review safety audits, open corrective action plans and take the necessary steps to adequately address the corrective actions in a timely manner.
Removal of 1000 Series Cars
The NTSB recommended that Metro remove the 1000 series rail cars from service as soon as possible and replace them with rail cars that are comparable to the 6000 series rail cars in terms of crashworthiness.
A few weeks ago, our Board of Directors approved a contract to replace the 1000 series cars, which are the oldest cars in the fleet, with new generation 7000 series rail cars. The new cars will be equipped with advanced crashworthiness technology.
We will also examine the service and safety impacts of removing the 1000 series cars from service, or other operational alternatives, and report back to the Board.
Installation and Maintenance of On Board Event Recorders
The final two recommendations called for ensuring that the lead married-pair rail car set in each train has an operating on-board event recorder, and that we develop a maintenance program for our on-board recorders.
We are developing a plan to equip the 4000 and 1000 series cars with onboard event recorders. The 2000, 3000, 5000 and 6000 series cars are already equipped with event recorders. The enhanced maintenance criteria of the on-board event recorders will be incorporated in the preventative maintenance and inspection process beginning in November.
In the coming years, Metro faces a number of challenges and we appreciate that the Metro Board has already dedicated more than $30 million over the next three years in our capital budget to begin addressing the NTSB recommendations and has retained a team of experts to examine and make recommendations on WMATA’s safety culture.
Metro’s staff is ready to meet these challenges in cooperation with the FTA, the NTSB, the Tri-State Oversight Committee and our other safety partners and under the leadership of the Metro Board.
News release issued at 5:38 pm, August 9, 2010.