Metro safety commission: Metrorail operated several projects without proper safety certifications

The Washington Metrorail Safety Commission has released a report accusing Metrorail of going ahead with projects without receiving the proper safety certifications.

The commission said that while Metro has secured the necessary certifications for major projects, such as the Silver Line Phase 2, the transit agency has failed to secure approval for other projects that it has put into effect.

According to the safety commission, the certification process is meant to ensure:

  • “Design and operating hazards and security vulnerabilities are identified, evaluated and properly controlled or mitigated prior to the commencement of passenger service consistent with WMATA’s SRM processes;”
  • “Critical system elements are evaluated for compliance with identified safety and security requirements during the design, construction/installation, testing, and start-up phases of a project; and”
  • “WMATA facilities, vehicles, equipment, and systems are operationally safe and secure for customers, employees, emergency personnel and the general public, prior to entering, or re-entering after modification, revenue service or use by WMATA personnel.”

The safety certification helps limit the chance that changes or repairs will be needed after the project goes into effect.

The safety commission said the failure to follow the safety certification process “directly contributed to the pull-aparts of two 6000 Series trains on the Red Line in fall of 2020.”

Metro also activated the Alexandria Rail Yard Automatic Train Control system over objections of subject matter experts. Metro had initially planned the reactivation of the system as part of a four-year project, issued in 2019, but accelerated the schedule to have the system running again by fall 2021, according to WMSC.

“This project development and subsequent complete reactivation in May 2021 was conducted outside of the safety certification process, including by not initially conducting an effective preliminary hazard analysis, by not including reliability and maintenance requirements in the contract and planning, and by later activating areas of the yard without the required sign offs and approvals,” the report says.

Further, the commission described Metro’s failure to obtain the safety certifications as “systemic.”

“Despite the WMSC’s ongoing communication with WMATA highlighting these important safety deficiencies, Metrorail has not ensured that all departments fully implement Metrorail’s safety certification requirements documented in WMATA’s SSCPP for all projects. This has created safety risks for riders, workers and first responders,” the report says.

WMSC said Metro must take steps to ensure compliance with the safety certification procedures and ensure they are clearly communicated across all projects.

Zeke Hartner

Zeke Hartner is a digital writer/editor who has been with WTOP since 2017. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s Political Science program and an avid news junkie.

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