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WMATA deputy GM orders more 'early action' safety steps


Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Deputy General Manager Robert Troup has ordered four additional "early-action" safety measures in response to a Jan. 12 smoke incident that occurred in a tunnel near L'Enfant Plaza Station in Washington, D.C.

The safety actions were identified as part of WMATA's collaborative review with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation team, but are not to be misconstrued as formal recommendations from the NTSB, WMATA officials announced this morning in a press release.

Intended to improve emergency response and the system’s state of good repair, the additional actions follow the completion of 10 early-action safety items that Troup directed shortly after the Jan. 12 incident. The incident resulted in a passenger fatality.

"As our work with the NTSB investigation team continues, I have concluded that additional actions can and will be taken to improve safety for our rail passengers, employees and first responders," Troup said. While we remain committed to taking any actions recommended by the NTSB in their final investigation report, we are not waiting to make safety improvements where we see opportunities."

The four actions involve:
• initiating a multiyear program to replace or rehabilitate all 88,044 lights in Metro tunnels beginning next month;
• creating dedicated maintenance crew to continuously clear tunnel passageways of debris, equipment or other potential obstructions across Metro's 100 miles of tunnel segments;
• starting this summer, reviewing protocols of the alarms in the Rail Operations Control Center with the goal of separating critical alarms from non-critical notifications; and
• establishing a quality audit process for ventilation system testing to ensure compliance with established maintenance and testing practices.

On Jan 12, an electrical arcing event occurred in front of a train traveling in a tunnel near L'Enfant Plaza. The train stopped, but the event caused the tunnel to fill with smoke, trapping passengers. One person died and 80 others were injured. NTSB officials said in a preliminary report that the electrical event involved cables that power the train's third rail.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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