Metro derailment points to ‘major vulnerabilities’

Adam Tuss, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Metro’s latest snafu left hundreds of commuters stranded for hours Tuesday evening. And at least one person thinks the malfunction was just waiting to happen.

While the investigation into the cause is still ongoing, a source says the Rosslyn station has always been problematic, particularly the track switches at the station.

“That is one of the major vulnerabilities of the system,” says the source. “It will only get worse when the rail to Dulles opens.”

Tuesday’s derailment happened in the area of a track switch that determines whether trains follow the Blue or Orange Line.

“We’re looking at the switch, as well as the other factors as part of the investigation,” says Metro spokesperson Dan Stessel.

When the Silver Line opens, those trains will have to pass through the same Rosslyn portal that the Blue and Orange lines now use to get back and forth.

No one was hurt when the first set of wheels on the first rail car headed toward Franconia-Springfield came off the tracks. It’s being characterized as a slow speed event. About 1,000 people were on board the train at the time.

Metro says the train was able to be put back on the tracks relatively quickly, and the longest delay came because the equipment to re-rail the train had to make its way to Rosslyn.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which still is investigating three other Metro accidents, is not investigating this derailment. Still, NTSB chair Debbie Hersman says they are keeping a close eye on things.

“We are concerned whenever we hear about derailments on Metro,” she says. “The system is in our back yard. Many of our employees ride Metro to work.”

While some commuters tweeted complaints about a lack of communication during the incident, Stessel praised riders for how they handled the situation.

“We do have to credit the passengers aboard the train,” he says. “They were great, calm, followed instructions of the train operator, and the resulting off-loading of the train was orderly.”

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