Two more Metro train operators ran through red signals

Well, what do you know —  two more operators ran red signals recently.  As I said in my previous post about this topic — contrary to the statement by Metro’s chief safety officer (“…red signal overruns [are] a “very rare” occurrence on the system.”) — red signal overruns are actually fairly common.

Part of the reason may be that the “Interlocking Operators” that work in the yard control towers routinely give operators permission to “Pass XX signal red” (with XX being the signal number).  There may be a legitimate reason for this but it is contradictory — operators are trained to never run red signals — unless they are told to run red signals.

As a train operator quoted in the WTOP article said, “You could have track workers on the tracks where these incidents happened,” the operator says. “Someone could have been run over.”

The article goes on to point out that, “In fact, last year two track workers were killed when a high-rail truck hit them near the Rockville Metro station.

Those two generic “track workers” were two coworkers of mine, Jeff Garrard and Sung Oh.  They were both exceptional employees and very good people.  Jeff Garrard’s widow called me today and said that a Metro police officer finally returned Jeff’s cell phone to her.  Presumably the NTSB investigation is almost complete.  The phone still has Jeff’s last phone calls in memory, including his wife’s frantic call to check and see if he was one of the unidentified “Metro workers” killed near Rockville early that morning.  He and Sung Oh were of course already dead when she called and got no answer.

Metro spokesperson Steven Taubenkibel [told] WTOP, “At no time was there a risk to passenger safety as the trains were not in service, nor was there any collision risk.”  That misses the point.

The train operator did the best job of expressing why these incidents are _all_ serious — regardless of whether there were deaths, injuries, or property damage involved.  What concerns me is that an official Metro spokesperson (Mr. Taubenkibel) and  two safety officers (Dougherty, and Sundberg) attempt to play down all four (4) recent incidents.

After the first two red signal overruns Sundberg said, “”This is more of an opportunity for us to try and introduce corrective measures into the property from a perspective of training…”.  Apparently those ‘corrective measures’  weren’t introduced quickly enough.

It is all but guaranteed that these red signal overruns will continue.

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