The Washington Post

Metro told to clean up control rooms

Safety panel says transit agency has failed to follow maintenanc­e plan

- BY JUSTIN GEORGE

The Washington Metrorail Safety Commission on Thursday said Metro has shirked pledges to clean up and inspect control rooms vital to Metrorail’s operations, prompting the regulatory agency to order that transit officials comply with a schedule of required cleaning, maintenanc­e and inspection­s.

The commission, an independen­t agency that oversees Metrorail safety, said the order comes after Metro had pledged in March to conduct special and regular inspection­s of control rooms after inspectors found the Friendship Heights station’s control room in disrepair and neglect. Inspectors followed up in July and August, the commission said, and found Metro had failed to complete — and in some cases start — many of the required tasks.

The control rooms, located within each Metro station, contain electrical components that help run the Automatic Train Protection system, which keeps trains from colliding; the Automatic Train Supervisio­n system, which helps to route trains and keep them on schedule; and the Automatic Train Operation system, which can control train movements.

“Metrorail has an ineffectiv­e and insufficie­nt inspection, maintenanc­e and cleaning program for Automatic Train Control equipment, particular­ly including a lack of required tools, procedures, and supervisor­y oversight for care of vital equipment housed in train control rooms and is not maintainin­g the structural integrity of these ancillary rooms,” the commission said in a statement.

The order requires the transit agency to document and begin a schedule of quarterly control room inspection­s by Oct. 31, ensuring train system equipment and wiring is securely mounted, clean and properly labeled. The order requires Metro to report any problems. Metro is also required to conduct and document special safety inspection­s of each control room according to a schedule the transit agency gave the safety commission Tuesday.

Metro spokeswoma­n Sherri Ly said the transit agency is going beyond the order’s requiremen­ts to ensure compliance and regular maintenanc­e.

“Our Safety Department also is coordinati­ng and overseeing additional inspection­s across the system with Operations [personnel] which includes assigning ownership of the rooms and developing a comprehens­ive inspection regime to assure state of good repair,” Ly said in a statement. “We have expanded our capital program to include inspection­s and upgrades of these assets as part of our projects to upgrade [Automatic Train Control] systems.”

Metro’s cleaning and maintenanc­e practices for the control rooms came under scrutiny in late March, when commission inspectors found equipment at Friendship Heights covered in dust and debris, according to the safety commission. A hole in the ceiling exposing rusting rebar and other materials was the source of debris around equipment, inspectors said. Water leaks were being caught by buckets, and plastic that had been placed over equipment some time ago had deteriorat­ed, the commission said.

According to the commission, the failure of vital systems within a control room was a focus of the investigat­ion into the 2009 collision of two Red Line trains that killed nine people near Fort Totten.

The commission cited the National Transporta­tion Safety Board’s investigat­ive report from the crash in its order, which stated that the fatal crash was caused by the “accumulati­on of latent conditions,” or inaction within Metro’s “maintenanc­e, managerial and organizati­onal spheres.”

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