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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-09-020
Synopsis: On Monday, June 22, 2009, about 4:58 p.m., eastern daylight time, southbound WMATA Metrorail train 112 was traveling in a curve when it struck the rear end of Metrorail train 214 before reaching the Fort Totten station. There was no communication between the train operators and the Metrorail Operations Control Center before the collision. During the collision, the lead car of train 112 telescoped and overrode the rear car of train 214 by about 50 feet. Examination of the track and wreckage indicated that the emergency brake on train 112 was applied before impact. The District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Service reported 9 fatalities and transported 52 persons to local hospitals.
Recommendation: TO THE FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION: Advise all railroads that use audio frequency track circuits in their train control systems that postaccident testing following the June 22, 2009, collision between two rail transit trains near the Fort Totten station in Washington, D.C., identified that a spurious signal generated in a track circuit module transmitter by parasitic oscillation propagated from the transmitter through a metal rack to an adjacent track circuit module receiver, and through a shared power source, thus establishing an unintended signal path. The spurious signal mimicked a valid track circuit signal, bypassed the rails, and was sensed by the module receiver so that the ability of the track circuit to detect the train was lost. (Urgent)
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Acceptable Action
Mode: Railroad
Location: Washington, D.C., DC, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Accident #: DCA09MR007
Accident Reports: Collision of Two Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Metrorail Trains Near Fort Totten Station
Report #: RAR-10-02
Accident Date: 6/22/2009
Issue Date: 9/22/2009
Date Closed: 5/18/2010
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: FRA (Closed - Acceptable Action)

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
Date: 5/18/2010
Response: The NTSB is pleased that the FRA has surveyed all FRA-regulated railroads to determine their possible use of audio frequency track circuits for train detection and that the railroads were all aware of the WMATA accident and subsequent recommendations. We are also pleased that the FRA will contact the railroads that utilize these circuits and determine exactly what measures each railroad has taken or will undertake concerning the examination and elimination of any possible failures in similar audio frequency track circuits and the ongoing monitoring of these components. As the FRA’s actions satisfy the intent of Safety Recommendation R-09-20, this recommendation is classified CLOSED -- ACCEPTABLE ACTION. Pending completion of the FRA’s followup with each affected railroad, Safety Recommendations R-09-21 and -22 are classified Open Acceptable Response. The NTSB is interested in the outcome of the initiatives described above and would like to be updated as actions proceed.

From: FRA
Date: 10/22/2009
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 11/3/2009 3:14:08 PM MC# 2090666 - From Joseph C. Szabo, Administrator: 49 CFR § 233.7 Section 233.7 requires each carrier to report within 15 days each false proceed signal indication or failure. A false proceed signal indication or failure is the failure of an appliance, device, method, or system to function or indicate, as required by 49 CFR Part 236, which results in either a more favorable signal aspect than intended or a condition that is hazardous to the movement of a train. The requirements of Section 233.7 certainly necessitate that any known occurrence of an occupied track circuit not detecting a standing train be reported by the railroad to FRA. In response to these recommendations, FRA field personnel have directly contacted all FRA-regulated railroads that utilize any signal or train control system to advise them of the NTSB findings and to determine if they use any audio frequency track circuits for the purpose of providing train detection within the control circuitry of their signal or train control system. This survey was recently completed and initial results have shown that use of this type of audio frequency track circuits in the described safety-critical manner is extremely limited among FRA-regulated railroads. FRA has also found that the railroads contacted were well aware of the NTSB findings associated with the WMATA accident and the subsequent recommendations. Therefore, FRA respectfully requests that, until the agency is able to further address these safety recommendations through direct followup with each affected railroad it regulates, the NTSB classify Safety Recommendations R-09-20 (urgent), as Open-Acceptable Response.