For Metro in­spec­tors, safety car­ries high price: Ef­fi­ciency

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - BY MAR­TINE POW­ERS

Metro con­tin­ues to over­haul its track in­spec­tion depart­ment one year af­ter a high-pro­file de­rail­ment on the Sil­ver Line, but ef­forts to im­prove the qual­ity of in­spec­tions have been ham­pered by some seem­ingly in­tractable prob­lems: trou­ble­some tech­nol­ogy, daily time con­straints and the agency’s self-im­posed safety reg­u­la­tions that have made it more dif­fi­cult for in­spec­tors to ac­cess the tracks.

An in­ter­nal re­port pre­pared by Metro’s qual­ity con­trol unit — and de­liv­ered to se­nior man­agers in June — out­lined many of these prob­lems, de­tail­ing four “wins” within the track in­spec­tion depart­ment and 14 other “ar­eas for im­prove­ment.”

The im­prove­ments, ac­cord­ing to the qual­ity con­trol unit: Track in­spec­tors have gone through an en­hanced train­ing pro­gram (“very ef­fec­tive and in­for­ma­tive,” com­mented one of the re­port’s au­thors af­ter watch­ing a train­ing ses­sion), and more in­spec­tions take place at night, when there are fewer in­ter­rup­tions from pass­ing trains. Ad­di­tion­ally, work­ers have fi­nally ramped up their use of an $8 mil­lion track in­spec­tion ma­chine that was rarely uti­lized be­fore the de­rail­ment.

The re­port also paints a clear pic­ture of the myr­iad chal­lenges: The soft­ware that al­lows in­spec­tors to log track de­fects re­mains con­fus­ing to work­ers and al­lows for re­dun­dan­cies and in­ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion. It’s a prob­lem Metro is grap­pling with even af­ter the agency fired a third of its track in­spec­tion depart­ment fol­low­ing

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