WASHINGTON — After federal reports revealed that Metro track inspectors falsified reports on the tracks outside the East Falls Church station in the months before a train derailed there in July, a congressman says it’s time for people to lose their jobs.
“Lying and falsifying records, especially involving safety, cannot be tolerated, period. … No appeal, no arbitration. You lose your job,” U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Virginia, a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, told WTOP on Friday.
The inspectors told investigators that they were pressured by supervisors to falsify information — 49 times since 2015, the exact same note on the section of track where the derailment happened was found in track reports, apparently copied and pasted from previous reports — and would face pushback and retaliation when they reported problems.
“The people we trust to do the inspections, in fact, lied. They falsified their inspection reports, and that led to the derailment, because guess what? They missed something,” Connolly said.
Connolly, who will speak on Capitol Hill to two subcommittees looking into Metro later Friday, said that it might be time to turn safety oversight of Metro — not the overall operations — to the Federal Railroad Administration.
“They’ve got commuter passenger rail experience.”
He said that he had recommended the move, but that Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx gave the responsibility to the Federal Transit Administration, which Connolly said doesn’t have the resources or the experience in the matters at hand. And Thursday’s report “highlighted the problem,” Connolly said. “FTA didn’t have standards for looking into this sort of railroad gauge.”
Connolly said he still has faith in Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld, who he said is “making tough decisions and the right decisions.
“At least, he’s shown good judgment and the intestinal fortitude to follow through, which many of his predecessors did not.”
Connolly also slammed the “dysfunctional Metro board.”
Asked whether criminal charges could be brought in the derailment, Connolly said, “There could be.”
While no lives were lost in the East Falls Church derailment, many accidents have placed lives at risk, “much of it caused by this dysfunctional system that has increasingly pervaded much of the workforce,” he said.
“I don’t mean to paint [with] a broad brush — there are lots of wonderful people who work for Metro,” Connolly added.
“But all of us have experienced this callous customer service at one time or another. [And} now it’s more serious than that. This is now at the command-and-control center. This is inspecting track. This is inspectors who don’t do their job and falsify their records. That has to be cleared up.”