Metro Still in ‘Little League' on Safety Culture

WASHINGTON — Within just a few hours on Tuesday, one Metro train hit another in a rail yard, and a piece of equipment being used for Metro’s round-the-clock trackwork derailed and may have been struck by a train carrying passengers, raising questions about a safety culture that one expert close to the system describes as “Little League.”

The source, who has significant transportation experience, likened a true safety culture to being in the major leagues with the Nationals, while Metro needs to begin with the fundamentals from the ground up, so it is as if they are starting in the Little League.

Metro’s new chief safety officer, Pat Lavin, has described gaping holes in Metro’s safety system that he has found in his first month on the job that prevent Metro from reaching the root causes of issues. That keeps Metro from fixing problems that occur over and over, something he wants to turn around.

At a regional forum Monday, even skeptical elected and appointed leaders praised Lavin and General Manager Paul Wiedefeld who took over in November.

Tuesday’s incidents

Metro said the collision of two trains in the New Carrollton Yard just after the system opened Tuesday morning has been reported to the Federal Transit Administration, which is responsible for safety oversight of the system.

According to Metro, the trains’ couplers hit when one train ran into another. The extent of the damage to the cars was still under investigation as part of the incident review.

Both train operators have been removed from service while the incident is investigated.

Separately, a Metro vehicle used to connect rails and rail ties derailed around 12:05 a.m. Tuesday in the round-the-clock workzone between Ballston and East Falls Church.

Metro said it is possible that a Silver Line train headed to Wiehle-Reston East struck a mirror of the derailed vehicle, known as a “spiker.”

No one was hurt in either incident.

Metro said the passengers on the Silver Line train were transferred to another train at East Falls Church. The other incident did not directly impact riders.

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