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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

NTSB calls for audit of transit agency ventilation systems


The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) yesterday called on the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to conduct a nationwide audit of tunnel ventilation systems and emergency procedures for fire and smoke events.

The agency also issued "urgent recommendations" to the FTA, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and the American Public Transportation Association that call for improved ventilation procedures for smoke and fire events in tunnels.

Additionally, the NTSB  made three urgent recommendations directly to WMATA in response to the Jan. 12 electrical arcing and smoke incident that occurred on a WMATA train near the L'Enfant Plaza station in Washington, D.C. One passenger died and 80 others were injured in the event.

"Procedures for ventilation of smoke in emergencies can be critical, but they vary across systems, and in some systems are inadequate — as we have found in the present WMATA investigation," said NTSB Acting Chairman Christopher Hart in a press release. "Although the investigation is ongoing, WMATA should immediately address these issues to prevent any chance of a recurrence, and other systems should be audited for similar problems."

As part of the investigation, the NTSB learned WMATA does not now have a way to determine the exact location of a source of smoke in its tunnels, nor does it maintain written ventilation procedures for smoke and fire events in a tunnel. The strategy that WMATA used during the Jan. 12 incident was not consistent with best practices, NTSB officials said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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