In a major breakthrough, Metro announced it has developed a real-time monitoring system to detect problems on the rail line.
The system was created in response to the deadly Red Line train crash in June 2009. Nine people lost their lives and dozens more were injured.
Federal safety investigators blamed a failure in the track circuit and automatic train control system (ATC) that went undetected. Now, the transit agency has a system in place that identifies a problem as it happens.
Metro says the system has been tested, endorsed by the NTSB and is already up and running.
"If there's a problem in the ATC system as far as where trains are located, it alerts us right away," said Richard Sarles, Metro's Chief Executive and General Manager.
During the 2009 crash, Metro's computer system failed to detect a train which had entered a segment of track with a faulty circuit. So the automatic controls accelerated the next train, as if there was no train ahead, causing the collision.
Having this real-time monitoring in place now could prevent another deadly accident.
"It really watches the system so that a train moving along doesn't disappear from the system," Sarles explained.
Prior to this, no such real-time monitoring system existed. Not at Metro and not anywhere in the country.
"The technology makes you feel those kind of accidents won't occur in the future," said Mel Lipscomb, who rides Metro.
Metro calls the development a "significant" step forward. The first prototype was developed in October 2009, and the current system that is now up and running took a year and a half of testing.
The transit agency worked with engineers, the federal transit administration, the NTSB and other experts to make sure the system works.
Yet, Metro's history of safety lapses identified after the Red Line crash makes some believe there is more work to do to make the system safe.
"To feel that it's 100 percent sure, it's going to work like it's supposed to, I'm a little bit skeptical," said one rider at the Fort Totten Station, near the site of the 2009 crash.
The real-time monitoring system will eventually allow the transit system to return trains to automatic control. Since the crash, trains have run in manual mode, which required slower speeds and riders complained of jerky rides.
"Doing cars in manual control sounds very obsolete," said rider David Van Camp.
Metro won't say when it will return to automatic mode.
"Certainly, this is a step forward in that direction," Sarles said.
The agency still has other NTSB recommendations to complete, including a safety analysis of the automatic train control system, before it can make any changes. But having a backup system that monitors problems real time overcomes a major hurdle.
Metro Board Safety Committee Chair Mort Downey today announced that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has closed five of Metro's outstanding safety recommendations.
"I am encouraged by this progress and want to commend Metro's leadership for their hard work to make the system safer," Downey said.
Of 22 remaining NTSB recommendations, Metro has submitted 12 for closure. Of those 12, the NTSB responded to four declaring them as "open—acceptable response(s)," meaning they will remain open pending submission of additional documentation. Metro is working to provide this information in the near future. Eight submittals are still under NTSB review.
"That leaves 10 recommendations to address," said Metro General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Richard Sarles. "Within the next month or so, Metro will submit three additional recommendations for closure. And we are working to achieve closure for the remaining seven."
Downey noted that some of the recommendations would take time, such as the replacement of the 1000-series Rohr rail cars. The 1000-series cars will be replaced with new new Kawasaki 7000-series cars, which are currently going through a final design process.
The five recommendations closed by NTSB are:
1. Safety Recommendation R-09-6: Take action to enhance the safety redundancy of [Metro's] train control system by evaluating track occupancy data on a real-time basis in order to detect losses in track occupancy and automatically generate alerts. Alerts should prompt actions that include immediately stopping train movements or implementing appropriate speed restrictions to prevent collisions.
2. Safety Recommendation R-10-8: Because of the susceptibility to pulse-type parasitic oscillation that can cause a loss of train detection by the Generation 2 General Railway Signal Company audio frequency track circuit modules, establish a program to permanently remove from service all of these modules within the Metrorail system.
3. Safety Recommendation R-10-14: Implement cable insulation resistance testing that we recommended as part of Metrorail's periodic maintenance program.
4. Safety Recommendation R-10-15: Work with the Tri-State Oversight Committee to satisfactorily address the recommendations contained in the Federal Transit Administration's March 4, 2010, final report of its audit of the Tri-State Oversight Committee and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
5. Safety Recommendation R-10-18: Review the Hazard Identification and Resolution Matrix process in your system safety program plan to ensure that safety-critical systems such as the automatic train control system and its subsystem components are assigned appropriate levels of risk in light of the issues identified in [the Fort Totten] accident.
WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
Didn't find what you were looking for?