- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 5, 2006

QUANTICO, Va. — A train derailment early yesterday caused minor injuries, then major delays for many Virginia rail commuters returning from work in the District.

The accident occurred at about 6:45 a.m. and involved a Virginia Railway Express train traveling north from Fredericksburg on one of CSX’s main East Coast lines. The Fredericksburg Line carries about 16,000 passengers daily to Union Station and Manassas.

The entire Fredericksburg Line — which goes directly to the District and has a spur to Manassas — was closed yesterday, but was scheduled to reopen today.

However, officials told commuters to expect 30- to 40-minute delays because of reduced train speeds near the accident scene — just north of the Quantico Station at Railroad Avenue.

Changes will be posted on the Web site www.vre.org.

Commuters in the District last night who usually return home on the Fredericksburg line took a free Metro subway ride to the Franconia-Springfield station on the Blue Line, where they boarded buses to Woodbridge, Quantico and other stops along the line.

There were no delays on the Manassas Line.

Ray Tucker, a construction superintendent from Kentucky who commutes on VRE from Stafford, Va., to his temporary job in the District, didn’t mind being delayed about two hours.

“I feel bad about the people on the train that wrecked,” said Mr. Tucker, 52, as he waited for his bus at the Franconia Metro stop. “I mean, things happen. Who’s to say this bus isn’t going to crash?”

Les Kirkland, another delayed commuter, said the accident was part of the risk of taking public transportation.

“You take your chances,” said Mr. Kirkland, 52, who commutes on VRE between Fredericksburg and Crystal City. “You drive in every day and you risk getting in an accident, or you take a train and take the risk of an accident on the rail.”

Investigators reported damage to the tracks but have not determined what caused the derailment of the engine, which was in the rear, and the last three cars on the five-car train.

“There was damage to the rail,” said Debbie Hersman, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board sent to the scene. “It shifted. The ballast has been disturbed. Some of the ties are damaged.”

A CSX employee said the track had undergone scheduled maintenance in October.

A VRE employee and three of the roughly 400 passengers on the train were injured. Mrs. Hersman said none of the injuries appeared to be serious and thinks the injured employee is a conductor.

The damage and injuries could have been more extensive: All of the cars remained upright, and the accident occurred just after train No. 304 went over part of the Potomac River.

“We had just crossed the Quantico Bridge,” said Mike Woody, a passenger on the last car. “So it could have been much worse if it happened on the bridge.”

As nightfall approached, a team of about 30 investigators and railroad employees in orange hard hats inspected the damaged rails as two cranes stood nearby.

That stretch of track on a typical day handles about 13 VRE trains, 18 Amtrak trains and 20 freight trains, officials said.

About 15 Amtrak trains yesterday were delayed or canceled, and about 3,000 passengers were affected, said company spokesman Cliff Black.

Several hundred passengers on the Richmond-to-Washington run were bused to their destination. Amtrak resumed southern service at about 7:30 p.m., using one of the two tracks in the derailment area. However, company officials said there could be 30- to 60-minute delays.

Mr. Black said Amtrak wanted to avoid the delays hundreds of its passengers recently endured on New Year’s Eve when the Silver Meteor arrived in New York from Florida more than 28 hours late.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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