- The Washington Times - Monday, November 8, 2004


Commuting around the metropolitan area returned to normal yesterday, five days after a crash at one of the District’s busiest stations crippled the subway.

Metro officials reported no problems with the morning rush hour, the first after full service was restored on the Red Line. Crews removed the last of the wreckage from the Woodley Park-Zoo station on Saturday.

Trains running in both directions had shared a single track through the Woodley Park station on Metro’s Red Line since Wednesday, when an empty train backed down a steep grade into a train carrying about 70 passengers. Twenty persons suffered minor injuries.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash. Investigators are looking at the braking and rollback protection systems, said NTSB spokeswoman Debbie Hersman.

Trains are equipped with systems that keep a safe distance between them and prevent them from rolling backward. A rail operator can also use an emergency or hand brake to stop a train.

According to Miss Hersman, the operator of the empty train, Lamont Lewis, told investigators that when he realized his train was rolling backward, he applied all the braking systems, and none worked. He said he did not realize at first that there had been a collision.

The operator of the other train, Calvert Sawyers, made it out of his cab in time to warn the people in the first car of the impending crash. Metro officials said his actions might have saved lives.

Metro has had four other derailments in 18 months. In each case, the wheels on a subway car climbed up the rail. Problems with the track have been ruled out, Miss Hersman said.

The investigation now moves to a rail yard that includes a powered test track and other equipment that could be useful in dissecting suspect equipment from the damaged trains. A final report may not be completed for several months, officials said.

Metro charged lower rates and ran longer eight-car trains on the Red Line to lessen the inconvenience to passengers. Many riders said their commutes were lengthened by about 20 minutes after the collision occurred.

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