Extreme Heat Blamed in Metro Derailment

Barrington M. Salmon | 7/11/2012, 11:54 a.m.

Last Friday's derailment of a Green Line train near West Hyattsville left Tia Haywood very nervous about having to take the train. Haywood, a Hyattsville resident works in downtown D.C. and takes the train to and from work because it's cost-effective. But she said if there were any other way to get to work she would.

She is not alone. Accidents of the type that occurred last week remind commuters all too well of the "occupational hazard" of riding trains.

Carole Campbell, a 50-plus-year-old accountant who lives in Silver Spring, said the accident is an unpleasant reminder of the dangers of riding the train.

"Most times when I'm on the train, I don't think about anything happening to the train," said Campbell. "I'm so preoccupied reading and people watching my mind doesn't go in the direction of being harmed. Usually, I'm more concerned with people doing something to me or someone getting into a fight rather than derailment."

Metro Media Relations Manager Caroline L. Lukas said it's unfortunate that Haywood and other passengers are fearful about riding Metro.

"Our goal is to provide safe and reliable service. We strive to achieve good standards at Metro," she said.

The 33-year-old train system has been beset by myriad problems.

The crash occurred three years and two weeks after the train system's worst crash in history. On the evening of June 22, 2009, a malfunctioning electronic circuit led to the collision of two trains near the Fort Totten station during rush hour. Cars from the trailing train jackknifed and fell onto the first train. A train operator and eight passengers were killed and 80 others were injured.

Lukas said investigators identified a misalignment of the rails known as a heat kink as the likely cause of Friday's incident. The rails are believed to have expanded because of extremely high temperatures and exposure to direct sunlight.

She said investigators would be presenting their findings to the Metro Board on Thursday, July 12. Over the past weekend, crews repaired a 1,000-foot section of the track, and also put the toppled train back on the rails.

In addition, crews also repaired the third rail and fasteners in the area of the derailment. Normal service was restored on Monday morning and heat-related speed restrictions of 35-miles-an-hour were also lifted Monday.

Fifty-five Metrorail passengers escaped serious injury Friday afternoon after the train derailed during rush hour.

The Green Line train, headed toward the District of Columbia, slipped off the tracks near the West Hyattsville station at 4:45 p.m., just before the train entered a tunnel. Three of the cars left the tracks, officials said.

One passenger, a pregnant woman, was transported to the hospital as a precaution. Three other family members accompanied her there.

Terrance Daye, a 29-year-old Greenbelt, Md., resident said he was leery about what had happened and didn't hesitate to pursue another option to get home.

"I usually take the Green Line train into Greenbelt," Daye said. "I'm stranded here because there's no service at Prince George's Plaza. Plus, with the derailment, I don't really feel comfortable getting back on the Green Line today. So, I just called [for] a ride.