Report: DC Metro Operators Fly Through Red Lights On A Regular Basis

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Federal investigators chided Washington, D.C., Metro officials in a Monday report revealing train operators ride through red signals on a monthly basis, a violation that nearly resulted in a head-on collision in July.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) investigation counted 68 red signal violations over the past four years, averaging more than one a month. Metro blew through more red signals in 2015 than the previous two years combined. A near head on collision at the Smithsonian station in March ignited the FTA probe and officials found a litany of wide ranging issues causing the regular safety violations, reports FOX5.

Officials found both new and veteran train operators violating the safety protocol for reasons ranging from confusion over track layout, operators not paying attention and speeding through the tunnels. The report noted specific concerns over communication failures between operators and the Metro control center. (RELATED: Inspectors Rip DC Metro’s ‘Appalling’ Safety Standards, Order Litany Of Urgent Fixes)

“The FTA considers stop signal overruns significant safety events, with the potential to result in the derailment or collision of passenger trains and the striking of workers,” reads the FTA report. It outlines the three main causes of red light violations. “Lack of train operator familiarity with mainline and yard territory, train operator inattention or confusion when departing from a station or terminal or moving under zero speed commands, and, poor or incomplete communication between the train operator and the Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC) regarding unusual train movements.”

The FTA is ordering Metro workers to take 11 safety actions to deal with the ongoing problem, despite noting Metro leadership has done much to curb this behavior with recent internal reforms and oversight. The FTA says the red signal violations by operators, whose average pay begins at $61,000, present an ongoing threat to rider and worker safety.

An operator put two trains of passengers at risk after having a dispute with a superior over a lunch break July 5. The operator violated a series of protocols before entering the tunnel, shutting off his radio, closing the doors of the train before receiving the proper signal and running a red stop signal.

The train approached the Glenmont Station, ran a red signal, then entered a switch, which placed it on the same track as an oncoming train. Moving at 12 miles per hour, the train almost hit two maintenance workers in the tunnel who jumped out of the way.

The report comes on the heels of a brutal critique of the overall safety of the Metro system last week, also from the FTA. The FTA gave Metro officials 30 days to complete 12 required safety directives, including retraining track inspectors. Metro officials failed to follow their own rules for track inspections before a July 29 derailment in Virginia.

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