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WMATA board decries 'safety breach' over unrepaired track defect


The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's (WMATA) board has ordered the agency’s interim general manager to find out within 10 days why his staff failed to address a previously detected track defect that caused a train derailment last week.

The board ordered the report yesterday, following Interim GM Jack Requa's announcement on Wednesday that the defect had been detected weeks before an empty WMATA Metrorail train derailed at the Smithsonian station in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 6. Requa ordered immediate track inspections of the system.

Although no passengers were injured, the train derailed just prior to boarding. The incident resulted in lengthy delays for area commuters. The fact that the infrastructure problem was not reported prior to the incident is “unacceptable,” said WMATA Safety Committee Chairman Michael Goldman, who spoke in a statement on behalf of the board.

"The board is outraged and dismayed that anyone working at Metro would have critical safety information and not act on it immediately," Goldman said. "This is a breakdown of the organization's chain of command and our safety culture. We obviously have much work ahead of us to improve the organization’s safety culture, and we will do so."

The board wants Requa to complete his investigation within 10 days and then report  his findings.

"This is an unforgivable breach of safety that needs to be dealt with firmly and swiftly," Goldman said.

Meanwhile, lawmakers representing the Washington area yesterday issued statements decrying the safety culture at WMATA. Among them was U.S. Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.), who called for the people responsible for the safety lapse to be fired.

"It is flatly unacceptable that Metro knew about this problem for over a month and did nothing. The individuals responsible for this utterly irresponsible failure should be fired, period," Delaney said in a press release. "Riders shouldn’t risk their lives every time they take Metro. I’m frustrated and appalled by consistent management failures at Metro."


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