Metro News Release

For immediate release: October 16, 2008

Poor track conditions blamed for June derailment

Track inspector failed to identify and report track defects

A Metrorail track inspector, who inspected an area of track the same day that a six-car Orange Line train derailed upon approach to the Court House Metrorail station on June 9, failed to notice and report poor track conditions, according to findings of Metro’s investigation into the accident.

There were several conditions that contributed to the derailment, including track alignment, loose track fasteners and wide gage, which is the space between the rails.

None of the 412 passengers on board train 905 that Monday were injured during the 2:42 p.m. incident, in which the front wheels of the third car of the train slid off the tracks and dragged for 2,300 feet before the train stopped. A Metro employee on board the train alerted the train operator that he heard a loud noise and instructed the operator to stop the train because he suspected that the train had derailed.

The track inspector, an eight-year veteran Metro employee, was first hired as a laborer in 1999 and after 15 months was promoted to a track walker in December 2000. Corrective action was taken with the inspector following the incident, and he is currently being retrained to be able to return to his duties as a track inspector.

“Our inspector failed to recognize the out-of-tolerance rail conditions,” according to Metro’s Chief Safety Officer Ronald Keele. “The track conditions compounded with the forces of the moving train caused one wheel to climb atop one track and the other wheel to drop to the ground. We are very fortunate that there were no injuries.”

The findings of Metro’s internal investigation determined that the track inspector failed to detect “defects in the track’s geometry” in the area of the derailment and “violated several inspection procedures,” according to Keele.

The inspector did not inform the Operations Control Center of dangerous track conditions, did not report any dangerous or defective conditions to his supervisor, and failed to properly measure the space between the two tracks.

Following the June derailment, Metro’s Department of Track, Structures and System Maintenance implemented a new Track Inspector Certification Program in which track inspectors perform both a written and practical examination. That new certification program is now mandatory for all current and new track inspectors. Metro employs 37 track inspectors and has 11 vacancies. All will have completed the new certification program by mid-October.

Metro’s Track Department has since purchased a new piece of track equipment called a lightweight track loading fixture to measure the lateral forces on its tracks. It also has placed an order for a customized “rail geometry vehicle,” scheduled to arrive in 2010, that will be able to identify when the track geometry or alignment is off, including whether the rails are spread too far apart. This new piece of equipment can replicate conditions of a fully loaded train of passengers, something that the lightweight fixture cannot do.

News release issued at 1:54 pm, October 16, 2008.