- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 9, 2007

The chairman of Metro’s Board of Directors said yesterday that safety remains the transit agency’s top priority and that officials were working with federal investigators to determine the cause of a derailment that injured 20 persons in the District.

“Fortunately, derailments are rare,” said Metro Board Chairman Gladys W. Mack. “Sunday was only the fifth time in our 31-year history that a Metrorail train has derailed resulting in passenger injuries.”

Mrs. Mack said that the system remains one of the safest in the country. She added that investigators are working to find the cause of the derailment Sunday and “take any corrective actions that may be necessary.”

“But even one injury is one too many, so we are committed to doing whatever needs to be done to prevent this type of accident from happening again,” she said.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators were expected yesterday to interview the operator of the train. Officials said the operator has worked for Metro since 2000, and she was interviewed by Metro and given a drug and alcohol test as part of the agency’s standard procedure after an accident.

Crews also were expected to remove the derailed car from the track last night after the station closed, allowing investigators to get a closer look at the track and the car involved in the crash.

The derailment occurred on the Green Line about 3:45 p.m., when the fifth car of a six-car train moving northbound crossed a rail switch and left the tracks before entering the Mount Vernon Square/7th Street-Convention Center station. About 120 passengers were on the train.

Officials were not sure whether the single tracking, rail switch or train crossing the switch caused the accident.

Investigators retrieved two event recorders from the train’s first four cars and were reviewing the information, which is expected to reveal details about speed and brake application. Agency officials have said they plan to request inspection records, dispatch logs and maintenance records from Metro.

The type of Metro car that derailed — known as the 5000 series — has a history of problems, including door malfunctions, brake problems and faulty propulsion systems. Metro officials had said the cars were involved in four derailments since April 2003, but officials told the Associated Press yesterday that the cars had been involved in eight of the 15 derailments since 2001.

The car was among 192 provided under a $378 million contract by AAI/CAF — an arrangement between the AAI Corp. in Hunt Valley, Md., and Construcciones Y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles of Madrid. Metro began receiving the 5000 series cars in 2001. All 192 cars are still in service. Metro has a total of 952 cars.

The accident Sunday came after a difficult year for the transit agency during which two employees were killed in work-related incidents. Three Metro employees have been killed since October 2005. The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the largest subway system in the country, reported one case of a train striking an employee last year and two in 2004, but no fatalities.

Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, which serves metropolitan Philadelphia, has had no work-related fatalities in the past five years.

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