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NTSB's Third Update on Metro Red Line Crash

* Metro Responds to NTSB Advisory *
* Track Circuit Malfunctioning Since 2007, NTSB Says *

National Transportation Safety Board
Washington, DC 20594
July 23, 2009

The National Transportation Safety Board continues to make progress in its investigation of the June 22, 2009, collision of two Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) trains on the Red Line in Washington, D.C. The Board has developed the following factual information:

Two signal companies, Ansaldo STS USA (US&S) and Alstom Signaling Inc. (GRS), that designed and manufactured the automatic train control components for the WMATA system, are providing technical assistance to the NTSB investigation.

As previously reported, an impedance bond (#15) for the track circuit where the accident occurred was replaced on June 17th, 2009, five days before the accident. Continued review of the maintenance logs has identified that the impedance bond (#14), located on the other end of the same circuit, was replaced in December 2007. WMATA records reveal that this track circuit's train occupancy signal has been intermittently fluctuating since the replacement was installed in December 2007.

The NTSB has requested trouble tickets for the last 18 months to see if these problems had been reported, and seeking records to see if any operators reported problems on this circuit.

The investigation is identifying possible sources of interference affecting the automatic train control (ATC) operation. These potential sources include Electromagnetic Interference (EMI), traction power harmonics and signal crosstalk, communication lines, and system upgrades and changes.

Following the accident, WMATA began to review operations data and identified some problems at other circuits. These anomalies are being examined by NTSB and WMATA to determine if they are the same kinds of problems as were found in the location of the accident site.

Testing has identified that the circuit problems are occurring more frequently during the rush hour time period. As a result, the NTSB and WMATA testing at the accident location on the Red Line is continuing. These tests may result in occasional delays on the Red Line in the Fort Totten area. All testing in the Fort Totten area is closely coordinated with WMATA and is scheduled to minimize delays on that area of track during rush hour.

On Saturday, July 18, the NTSB conducted a sight distance test at the accident location. Information collected from the test will be correlated with rail markings documented after the accident, the braking characteristics of the striking train, and the speed information gleaned from the WMATA Operations Control Center records.

By Mike McPhate  |  July 23, 2009; 11:11 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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Catoe said yesterday about the NTSB chief, "She was taken aback and was as shocked as I was of the information that was reported in The Washington Post."

I guess she was just shocked that the Washington Post reported the anomalies before she had a chance to! What do you have to say now Catoe?

Posted by: FunInSun45 | July 23, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

This just keeps getting more and more ridiculous. Heads need to start rolling at WMATA, starting with John Catoe, who should do the honorable thing and fall on his sword (figuratively, of course).

Posted by: dfl1 | July 23, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Between being satisfied with the anomalies and then taking the cavalier position that says that he knows better, I believe someone should strongly consider that Mr. Catoe is no longer the man for the job. It appears that at Metro there is the right way, the wrong way and the Catoe way - and that ways says that the customer's safety be damned.

As for me, I am voting with my feet and either traveling Metrobus or driving!

Posted by: jimmy_mac | July 23, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Dr. Gridlock,

Thanks for the good reporting and updates over the last month especially. If I remember the reporting correctly, some time before the Red Line incident, two trains on the (outbound?) track in the tunnel between Foggy Bottom and Rosslyn had a near miss. The operator of the trailing train had to hit the brakes when he realized there was a train up ahead that was closer than expected. This suggested the automated system might not have registered the presence of the train ahead.

Recently I've read that the circuit outside Foggy Bottom is one that may be showing anomalies. Yesterday there were no Orange-Blue Line alerts during the p.m. rush, but trains were very backed up between 6:00 and 7:00 pm going through the tunnel to Rosslyn. The report on the WMATA site on "yesterday's service" only mentions two Orange trains being off-loaded at 5:16 and 5:29 due to being rerouted for use on the Red Line, not for mechanical issues. Looking at next train arrivals in Rosslyn on my mobile device, it seemed as if it was taking trains 15 or 20 minutes to go from McPherson Sq. to Rosslyn, whereas it customarily takes 5 or 6 minutes between those stations. The trains were running frequently (1 or 2 minute headways coming in to McPherson) but slowly. Some held at McPherson far beyond the normal dwell times. Was this related to the problems with circuits between Foggy Bottom and Rosslyn? Are delays in the stretch between Metro Center and Rosslyn something we should expect in coming days as well?


Posted by: Former_Archivist | July 23, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

@Former_Archivist: *Something* definitely had to be up with the orange / blue lines in that region yesterday. It took me the better part of an hour to get to Clarendon from L'Enfant Plaza last night, between 6:10 and 7:00.

(This after it took me just *over* an hour to get from Silver Spring to L'Enfant Plaza, 45 minutes of which was between Silver Spring and Ft. Totten. Sigh.)

Posted by: EtoilePB | July 23, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Former Archivist,
I believe you're talking about the event in 2005? The problem then was related to a cable that connected to the circuit. The Examiner newspaper brought this up in yesterday's edition.

Posted by: cprferry | July 23, 2009 8:05 PM | Report abuse

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