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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-16-001
Synopsis: On January 12, 2015, at 3:15 p.m. eastern standard time, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) southbound Yellow Line train 302, with about 380 passengers on board, stopped after encountering heavy smoke in the tunnel between the L’Enfant Plaza station and the Potomac River bridge in Washington, DC. The operator of train 302 told the Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC) that the train was filling with smoke and he needed to return to the station. The WMATA ROCC allowed train 510, following train 302, to enter the L’Enfant Plaza station, which also was filling with smoke. Train 302 was unable to return to the station before power to the electrified third rail, which supplied the train’s propulsion power, was lost. Some passengers on train 302 evacuated the train on their own, and others were assisted in evacuating by first responders from the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department (FEMS). As a result of the accident, 91 people were injured, including passengers, emergency responders, and WMATA employees, and one passenger died. WMATA estimated the total damages to be $120,000. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has been concerned with the safety of the WMATA rail system since 1970, when it conducted a special study of the proposed transit rail system while it was still under construction. The resulting report, NTSB/RSS-70/1, Study of Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Safety Procedures for the Proposed Metro System, resulted in one safety recommendation to WMATA to “develop the capability within WMATA for system safety engineering and apply system safety principles to all aspects of the proposed [rail] system to identify, assess, and correct those deficiencies identified by the analysis.” This accident is the 13th WMATA rail accident investigated by the NSTB since WMATA rail began operation in 1976. The NTSB has issued 101 safety recommendations to WMATA since 1970.
Recommendation: TO THE FEDERAL TRANSIT ADMIINSTRATION: Issue regulatory standards for tunnel infrastructure inspection, maintenance, and repair, incorporating applicable industry consensus standards into those standards.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Open - Acceptable Response
Mode: Railroad
Location: Washington, DC, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Accident #: DCA15FR004
Accident Reports: ​Preliminary Report: WMATA Smoke and Electrical Arcing Accident in Washington, DCWashington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority L’Enfant Plaza Station Electrical Arcing and Smoke Accident
Report #: RAR-16-01
Accident Date: 1/12/2015
Issue Date: 5/23/2016
Date Closed:
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: FTA (Open - Acceptable Response)

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
Date: 9/28/2016
Response: We note that, on May 17, 2016, you published a Federal Register notice encouraging public comment on your compendium of transit safety standards and protocols, and that the public commenting period ended on June 16, 2016. We acknowledge that you are reviewing the comments you received and that you intend to publish your findings, including recommendations to revise applicable existing standards, and to issue new standards as needed. Pending our review of your revisions to existing standards and the creation of new standards where needed, Safety Recommendations R-16-001 and -002 are classified OPEN--ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: FTA
Date: 8/4/2016
Response: -From Carolyn Flowers, Acting Administrator: As required by Section 3020 of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act), FTA is conducting a review of public transportation safety standards and protocols. On May 17, 2016, FTA published a Federal Register notice soliciting public comment on its Compendium of transit safety standards and protocols, which includes standards for tunnel infrastructure inspection, maintenance and repair, and emergency egress in smoke and fire incidents. The FTA sought comment from the public specifically on additional transit safety standards that were not reflected in the Compendium, data-driven evidence regarding the effectiveness of existing standards, specific areas where FT A should establish new minimum safety standards, safety standards from other industries that could be applied to the public transportation industry to reduce safety risks, and input on how to prioritize the establishment of new standards. The public comment period ended on June 16, 2016, and FTA is currently reviewing the comments received. At the conclusion of its review, FT A will issue a public report on its findings, which will include recommendations regarding revising existing standards and issuing new standards.