"No Good Reason for Train to Derail": Fenty | NBC4 Washington

"No Good Reason for Train to Derail": Fenty

DC Mayor promises there will be "serious ramifications, changes"

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    WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 12: Firefighters exit the Farragut North Station after a Metro train derailment February 12, 2010 in Washington, DC. A Red Line train in the Shady Grove direction derailed near the station. Nobody was reported injured. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

    D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty appeared on national television Friday night, promising action after the latest incident to hit the beleaguered Metro system.

    A six-car Red Line Metro train derailed Friday morning at the Farragut North station, injuring three and causing hours of delays for passengers as well as for commuters on the roads outside the station. The lead car of the train, which was headed in the direction of Shady Grove with 345 people on board, came off the tracks at 10:13 a.m.

    Metro Train Derails in Downtown D.C.

    [DC] Metro Train Derails in Downtown D.C.
    A six-car train jumped the tracks near the Farragut North Metro station. (Published Friday, Feb. 12, 2010)

    On "Washington Unplugged," Fenty told host Bob Schieffer that there was "no good reason for a train to come off the tracks."

    "There is going to have to be some serious ramifications and changes," the mayor told Schieffer between cell phone updates from officials, the Political Hotsheet reported.

    D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton said in a statement that the derailment is the "latest indicator that years of delayed
    and insufficient maintenance and replacement of obsolete equipment are at the root'' of Metro's accidents, delays and operational
    problems.

    Norton said the system needs more money and she said she will ask the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to hold a hearing on Metro's "maintenance backlog.''

    But Metro Board Chairman Peter Benjamin told NBC4 that the problems with Metro are not only financial, they're cultural.

    "We certainly have a safety problem," said Benjamin. "We have a a financial problem and we have a management problem."

    However, Benjamin said the biggest problem with Metro is culture "that is not sufficiently focused on safety as a way to live and a way to operate." He said changing that culture will take time.

    Unlike previous incidents on Metro, it appears that this time, Metro's safety features did what they were supposed to do.

    Sources told NBC4 that the track system sensed a red light ahead, so it automatically derailed the train. The train was moving slowly at the time it derailed.

    "The derailer system did what it was supposed to do, preventing an incident," one source said.

    Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said the train was on a "pocket track," which is a side track that allows Metro to maneuver trains.

    Sources still do not know why the train went into the pocket track. When the system opened in 1976, the Red Line only went from Farragut North to Rhode Island Avenue, and the trains would switch tracks in the pocket track area. Sources said other areas where Metro has pocket tracks include West Falls Church, National Airport and Silver Spring.

    The Farragut North station reopened at about 12:15 p.m. but was single-tracking at the station. Trains were restricted to a speed of 25 mph between Dupont Circle and Farragut North while officials investigated. All streets in the area reopened by 1 p.m.

    The derailment comes as Metro attempts to get its service back to normal after Wednesday's blizzard. The transit agency had opened all Blue, Yellow and Green Line stations and had limited service on the Red and Orange Lines before the derailment. Six of Metro’s 86 stations remained closed Friday morning as work crews continued to dig out the tracks.

    Friday's derailment also comes after a collision last summer killed nine people when one train slammed into another that was stopped on the tracks, as well as a series of accidents that have killed Metro workers, including one that killed two employees last month.

    The National Transportation Safety Board has a three-day public hearing starting Feb. 23 on its investigation into the cause of the June crash. NTSB spokesman Terry Williams said the agency has begun an investigation into Friday's derailment. Metro also is investigating.