Metro General Manager/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld today announced that additional weekend closures may be included in the SafeTrack schedule to address issues identified following the East Falls Church derailment, and provided an update on steps taken to improve Metro’s track inspection program.
“Safety trumps service, now more than ever at Metro. The SafeTrack program is intended to make our tracks safe and reliable, and I have reinstructed the team to ensure we are addressing every issue out there, including interlockings,” Wiedefeld said. “I will continue to notify our riders of any service changes as quickly as possible, but we are not backing off of safety over service.”
Following the derailment at East Falls Church, General Manager Wiedefeld ordered a new round of inspections for all interlockings conducted by rail maintenance supervisors with track engineers participating. Those inspections have identified several interlockings that require work. As a result, SafeTrack Surge #7 now includes a complete shutdown this weekend between Grosvenor and Shady Grove Stations so the interlocking at Twinbrook can be repaired. The track maintenance team is reviewing the remaining SafeTrack schedule and will consider additional weekend shutdowns during Surges 8-15 to address conditions identified by the latest inspections.
In addition, Metro is taking several steps to improve track safety, specifically in the areas of inspection and training of personnel:
- Awarded contract in July 2016 for engineering consultants to conduct a complete asset inventory – essentially examine the entire rail system and have an outside expert review all track conditions.
- Awarded contract in August 2016 for outside experts will rewrite the track inspection manual.
- Contract to be awarded soon for a complete overhaul of the track inspection training program. Over the next 10 months the curriculum will be rewritten, Metro trainers will receive instruction, and then Metro’s program will be audited by the experts.
- Next month, while this larger training overhaul is underway, expert trainers from the University of Tennessee’s Center of Transportation Research will visit Metro to conduct two weeks of intensive training for track inspectors to improve their ability to identify and categorize track defects. The University of Tennessee has 25 years of experience in railroad training and its courses meet Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) standards.