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FTA: WMATA fails to properly secure unattended trains


The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) on Wednesday issued a safety directive requiring the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to ensure that unattended rail vehicles are properly secured.

Photo: FTA

The directive is based on findings in the FTA's "rail vehicle securement investigation report," which uncovered a lack of compliance with WMATA's internal rules and procedures regarding the securement of passenger trains and maintenance machines in yards.

The FTA launched the investigation after three incidents on WMATA's property over the past two years, including a December 2015 incident in which an empty two-car train rolled away in a yard in New Carrollton, Md.

In addition, the FTA discovered that WMATA train operators don't apply handbrakes to rail vehicles stores in rail yards overnight as required. The federal agency also found that rail cars weren't being separated by the required distance when stored in rail yards, according to the investigation report.

Unsecured and unattended trains or equipment can move in yards and on mainline track, which creates the potential for collisions with other trains, equipment or workers, FTA officials said in a press release.

"These incidents at WMATA amplify the need for the proper use of safety and securement devices to prevent unintended train movements that can cause accidents," said FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers.  “WMATA must revise, and its employees must observe,  its operating rules to ensure proper and safe securement of rail vehicles."

In particular, WMATA must complete an assessment of the safety risks from unintended train movement in yards and propose a new approach for implementing a redundant protection system, according to the directive.

The agency also needs to revise its safety rules and procedures handbook and supporting standard operating procedures to "unambiguously reflect its new approach for protecting against unintended train movement in rail yards," the directive said.

In addition, WMATA must update its train operator training materials to address the storage of the agency's new 7000 series vehicles. The materials must spell out the location and automatic operation of handbrakes.

Within 60 days, WMATA needs to submit a corrective action plan to the FTA that identifies specific actions that will be taken to address the safety directive.

The latest safety directive is the second WMATA has received this month. Last week, the FTA issued a directive requiring the D.C.-area transit agency to address stop signal overruns.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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