Metro's GM Addresses Month of Transit Issues

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    NEWSLETTERS

    July has been a tough month for Metro and its riders. Storms, extreme heat and computer glitches each created interruptions in service. Metro officials say they're beginning to understand more about what went wrong and how to fix the problems. Derrick Ward has more. (Published Thursday, Jul 26, 2012)

    A month of extreme heat and severe storms has proven daunting for Metro.

    The June 29 derecho storms downed trees and power lines, blocking bus routes. Then twice with 24 hours a computer glitch took down the system that tracks trains, bringing all lines to a halt.

    "So I said, ‘Let’s take a pause here. Let’s bring the trains in the station so the customers are good, our employees are safe, then we’re going to take stock of this and move,’” General Manager Richard Sarles said about the response to the latter.

    Metro has since pinpointed what went wrong.

    "We've since gone through and after a few days of detective work found that a circuit board had failed in an unusual way,” Sarles said. “It didn’t stop, but it wasn’t fully doing what it was supposed to do so the normal backup systems didn’t know quite what to do with it.”

    Then there was the partial derailment in Hyattsville -- caused by the heat and the laws of physics. Because of steel’s malleability, when it gets really cold or really hot it can do things you don’t want. When it's hot for extended periods, the rails can bend and warp.

    “And we will slow the system down, so if a rail kink occurs either we’ll spot it before a train actually gets to it because we’re operating a little bit slower or the severity of an incident can be reduced, maybe don’t tear up 1,000 feet of track like we did,” Sarles said.

    No one was injured in the derailment, but trains slowed down throughout the system out of caution.