Railroad Accident Report - Collision Between Two Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Trains at the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan Station

Washington, D.C.
November 3, 2004

NTSB Number: RAR-06-01
NTIS Number: PB2006-916301
Adopted March 23, 2006
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Executive Summary

On Wednesday, November 3, 2004, about 12:49 p.m., eastern standard time, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Metrorail train 703 collided with train 105 at the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan station in Washington, D.C. Train 703 was traveling outbound on the Red-Line segment of the Metrorail system and ascending the grade between the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan and the Cleveland Park underground stations, when it rolled backwards about 2,246 feet and struck train 105 at a speed of about 36 mph. Train 703 was operating as a nonrevenue train; that is, it was not carrying passengers. Train 105, a revenue train, was in the process of discharging and loading passengers at the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan station. There were about 70 passengers on board train 105. Some passengers had exited the train just before or during the collision. The District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Service transported about 20 persons to local hospitals. Estimated property damages were $3,463,183.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the November 3, 2004, collision between two Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority trains at the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan station was the failure of the operator of train 703 to apply the brakes to stop the train, likely due to his reduced alertness. Contributing to the accident was the lack of a rollback protection feature to stop the train when operated in the manual mode.

In its investigation of this accident, the Safety Board examined the following safety issues:

  • The lack of a rollback protection feature when trains are operated in the manual mode,
  • Operator performance,
  • The lack of passenger emergency exit standards in the transit industry, and
  • The crashworthiness of Metrorail 1000-series railcars.

As a result of its investigation of this accident, the Safety Board makes recommendations to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and the Federal Transit Administration. On November 22, 2004, the Board issued Urgent Safety Recommendation R-04-9 to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

Recommendations

As a result of its investigation of the November 3, 2004, collision between two Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority trains at the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan station, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following safety recommendations:

New Recommendations

To the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority:

Equip, as soon as possible, all existing and future train equipment with rollback protection for trains operated in the manual mode. (R-06-1)

Either accelerate retirement of Rohr-built railcars, or if those railcars are not retired but instead rehabilitated, then the Rohr-built passenger railcars should incorporate a retrofit of crashworthiness collision protection that is comparable to the 6000-series railcars. (R-06-2)

To the Federal Transit Administration:

Require transit agencies, through the system safety program and hazard management process if necessary, to ensure that the time off between daily tours of duty, including regular and overtime assignments, allows train operators to obtain at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. (R-06-3)

Assess the adequacy of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's current organizational structure and ensure that it effectively identifies and addresses safety issues. (R-06-4)

Develop transit railcar design standards to provide adequate means for safe and rapid emergency responder entry and passenger evacuation. (R-06-5)

Develop minimum crashworthiness standards to prevent the telescoping of transit railcars in collisions and establish a timetable for removing equipment that cannot be modified to meet the new standards. (R-06-6)

Recommendation Reclassified in This Report

To the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority:

R-04-9
Immediately revise the directions to train operators contained in your memorandums of November 7 and 9, 2004, to include specific written instructions for identifying and responding to an emergency rollback situation, and provide training to operators on the procedures to follow if such a rollback event occurs. (Urgent)

Urgent Safety Recommendation R-04-9, previously classified "Open-Acceptable Response," is reclassified "Open-Unacceptable Response" in the "Rollback Protection" section of this report.