GM/CEO statement before Metro Board Safety Committee
The following are prepared remarks by Metro General Manager/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld for the Metro Board Safety Committee meeting of Thursday, December 15, 2016:
I want to update the Committee on the status of Metro’s three reviews following the July 29 derailment at East Falls Church.
In the days following the incident, I was briefed on some of the early statements taken by Metro Safety Department investigators who interviewed track inspectors, as we searched for the root cause of the derailment. Based on some of the comments made by Metro employees regarding inspection activities, I felt it was necessary to refer the matter to Metro Transit Police for their review, which I did on August 18th. We also sought advice from an external law firm with criminal investigation experience who worked with Metro’s General Counsel to review this matter. Finally, the incident investigation led by the Safety department continued and worked in full cooperation with NTSB, FTA and Metro’s operations and administrative personnel. The NTSB issued their findings on December 1, including the release of some of the statements that we provided to the Safety Board and, as previously stated, are among the statements which led me to refer the matter to the police department.
MTPD has now completed its investigation. While no arrests were made, prosecutors were briefed on the findings and are taking the matter under advisement.
Metro concluded its safety investigation and is wrapping up our internal administrative review after evaluating track inspection reports dating back three years. The internal review determined that certain employees in the track department falsified track inspection records.
I want the Board, our employees and our customers to know that this review revealed a disturbing level of indifference, lack of accountability, and flagrant misconduct in a portion of Metro’s track department which is completely intolerable. Further, it is reprehensible that any supervisor or mid-level manager would tolerate or encourage this behavior, or seek to retaliate against those who objected. It is also entirely unacceptable to me that any employee went along with this activity, rather than exercise a safety challenge, or any of the multiple avenues available to protect themselves, their coworkers, and the riding public.
Since the derailment occurred, we have either taken action or are in the process of taking disciplinary actions involving 28 individuals. This represents nearly half of the track inspection department and includes BOTH management and frontline track employees.
- Six employees have been terminated, including 4 track inspectors and 2 supervisors
- Six more track inspectors are pending termination or unpaid suspension; and 10 more are pending possible discipline pending the outcome of the administrative process
- Another supervisor termination is underway; and two more supervisors are pending the outcome of the administrative process
- One Superintendent was demoted to Supervisor
- One Assistant General Superintendent was demoted to Superintendent
- One assistant superintendent separated from Metro before the review concluded
In addition to the disciplinary actions, since the derailment:
- Every interlocking was inspected
- Six FRA-trained outside track inspectors were embedded to improve Metro's inspection process
- Metro's preventive maintenance program has been developed and addresses many of the issues raised in the NTSB report and our own reviews
- Refresher training courses for track inspectors conducted by University of Tennessee faculty
- Outside experts commenced systemwide condition assessment of all track (to include yards, total = 261 miles) – completion late Spring 2017.
- Track inspection manual is being rewritten.
Now I will turn this over to the Chief Safety Officer to go into cause of the derailment in more detail.