Red Line to return to automatic train operation after deadly 2009 Metro crash

WASHINGTON — The Red Line will return to automatic train operation on Monday, Metro has announced. The line hasn’t run on automatic operation since the 2009 Metro crash that left nine people dead and 80 injured.

The announcement comes after years of upgrades, testing and “successful closure of key [National Transportation Safety Board] safety recommendations,”  Metro Deputy General Manager Rob Troup said in a news release.

Train operators will still ride in train cabs, but the computer will control acceleration and deceleration.

To start, eight-car trains will run automatically while six-car trains will continue to be manually operated. A software upgrade in the future will allow for the six-car trains to switch over.

Other Metro lines are still undergoing work and are planned to make the change to automatic mode in 2017.

“The return of automatic train operation on the Red Line is a significant safety milestone for Metro,” said Troup in the news release. “I want to thank our riders for their forbearance through years of work, often on weekends, to allow us the track access necessary to perform essential signal upgrades.”

On June 22, 2009, an older-model Red Line Metro hit another train that was stopped at Fort Totten station.  Nine people were killed, including eight passengers and the operator of the striking train. In all, about 80 others were injured, making it the worst crash in Metro’s history. Since the crash, all trains have operated manually.

NTSB later said older 1000-series cars were vulnerable to catastrophic damage in the event of a crash.

Killed in the crash were: train operator Jeanice McMillan, 42, and passengers Veronica DuBose, 29, Ana Fernandez, 30, LaVonda “Nikki” King, 23, Ret. Maj. Gen. David F. Wherley Jr., 62, Ann Wherley, 62, Dennis Hawkins, 64, Mary Doolittle, 59 and Cameron Williams, 37.

WTOP’s Lacey Mason contributed to this report.

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