Thursday, January 7, 2010

Safety Inspectors Nearly Hit by Oncoming DC Train

While true irony is hard to come by these days, the Washington, D.C., Metro has managed to produce a bit of its own.

Independent safety inspectors investigating the D.C. subway system's tracks last month were nearly hit by an oncoming train that didn't follow procedures requiring it to slow down as it approached them.

A report released Wednesday by the Tri-State Oversight Committee, which reviewed the train's safety system in May and December, says its inspectors "were forced to quickly scramble out of the way to avoid being struck by the train in question."

The report comes after the deadliest year in Washington Metro history, according to The Washington Post. In June, a metro train smashed into another one stopped on the tracks ahead of it, killing nine people.

In addition to nearly being hit themselves, the safety review team found multiple other instances of workers not complying with safety regulations. They cited trains speeding up too quickly after passing track workers, multiple track workers giving hand signals to oncoming trains at the same time, and track workers who had their backs to oncoming trains.

The safety team began its inspections in May, before the deadly summer crash, but were barred from the tracks by Metro for six months. In the meantime, two Metro workers were hit and killed by trains: Michael Nash in August and John Moore in September.

Coincidentally, the same day the inspectors were nearly hit by the oncoming train, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., testified in front of a Senate transportation subcommittee, saying that Metro's managers paid "lip service" to safety issues and accountability, and calling on the Metro board to take action.

"This is outrageous," Mikulski told the Post on Wednesday when she learned about the incident. "It shows again that safety and accountability are not yet priorities at Metro. It is another example of why greater oversight of Metro is needed."

Michael Taborn, Metro's chief safety officer, said in a statement Wednesday that an investigation into the near-miss is ongoing and that Metro is moving aggressively to implement the safety plan outlined in the report.

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