Management Restricts Techs’ Access to Critical Data

In the aftermath of the wreck in June of 2009 that killed 9 people and injured dozens, there were several embarrassing facts that came to light:

1) Had we (ATC) been following the draft PMI (preventive maintenance inspection) that had been floating around unsigned for months, the faulty track circuit(s) would almost certainly have been discovered and the wreck would have been avoided. We could not use it because management had delayed approving it.
2) In fact, had we been completely filling out the track circuit PMI form that had been in existence since before I was hired in 1983, the wreck likely would not have happened.  We were told not to bother.
3) The ATC techs who were instructed to replace the old impedance bonds on the tracks with new ones told management that the track circuits would not adjust properly, that something was wrong. Their reaction? “Crank up the power!” Had management and/or the “engineers” in charge actually left their offices and investigated, there is very little chance the accident would have occurred. Turning up the power level only made the problem worse.
4) The circuit that the struck train was in had been “bobbing” (alternating between indicating occupied and unoccupied) for days before the wreck. This was documented. That should have been a clue that there was a problem.
5) In fact, there was even a work order (w/o) opened because the circuit was bobbing – within hours after the impedance bond was replaced.

Here is a photo of a computer display showing the open w/o (we could not do a screen capture).  Click photo to view larger image.  Notice the date it was opened — 6-17-2009 — five (5) days before the wreck:

A few days after the accident, the system log (sys log) showing the track circuit bobbing as often as every few seconds – for days before the wreck – was published by the Frederick (MD) News-Post.

This was rather embarrassing (as was the open w/o) since management had sworn that no one was aware of the problem.

Ooops. Caught in a blatant lie.

Their reaction? To arbitrarily cut off access to the sys log by all front-line employees. Yep, they showed us. No more leaks to the press. The only problem is that the sys log is a very valuable troubleshooting tool. Without access to it, many problems take longer to fix. As in days or weeks instead of hours in some cases. That equates to a less safe, less efficient railroad.

It seems pretty obvious what Metro management’s #1 priority is – CYA, at all costs.

In spite of all of their talk about wanting to improve safety and efficiency, they have eliminated one of the ATC technicians’ most useful tools because of a temper tantrum over being shown to be liars.

Actions speak louder than words.

I am retired, so I do not know that this is still the case, but it was for at least a year before I left and to the best of my knowledge it still is.

Of course, no one involved has anything to worry about.  They’re covered because they work for the 51st State.  Many have probably already been promoted.

Hey, accidents happen, right?

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This entry was posted in Management Follies, Safety Incidents, The Metro Hall of Shame and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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