Near-Miss in '05 May Have Led to June Metro Crash

NTSB is now focusing on four-year-old incident

The Red Line crash in June, a March 2 incident on Capitol Hill and a near-miss crash in 2005 all have a common link.

They each involve breakdowns of a crash avoidance system designed to be fail-safe, according to The Washington Post.  And the 2005 incident in particular has become a focus of the investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.   

According to newly obtained records and interviews of the near-miss crash on the Orange Line four years ago, "Metro engineers did not perform exhaustive on-site tests of all components related to the incident in 2005 because they thought they had found the problem and did not want to further inconvenience passengers," the Washington Post reports.

The four-year-old incident happened on the Orange Line, in a tunnel below the Potomac River, when three trains almost collided. Fortunately, drivers of both trains that came perilously close to hitting each other and a train already stopped at the Rosslyn station hit their emergency brakes on time.

After the near-miss crash in 2005, Metro's safety office made recommendations to help avoid a similar problem from happening again. But, "by the time of this summer's crash, records show, none had been formally implemented and approved by the Tri-State Oversight Committee, which monitors Metro safety," the Post reports.

Metro officials, who issued a line-by-line rebuttal Sunday to the Post's article, said the "incident was investigated, the circuit was fixed and safety recommendations were implemented."

The agency also claims that the near-miss crash was already covered by reporters in 2005 and that Metro had since closed its own investigation.

Whether this year's Red Line crash could have been averted by "a more aggressive response to the 2005 incident" is hard to tell, according to the Post, "but federal officials have long considered Metro's slowness in closing out safety investigations to be a critical concern."

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