D.C. Metro Train Derails Due to Broken Rail, Raising Further Questions About Safety of Subway System

A subway train carrying over 60 passengers through Washington D.C. Metro system derailed yesterday morning, after a broken rail sent multiple cars off the track, leaving passengers rattled and abandoned within a subway tunnel full of smoke and debris. 

According to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), at approximately 6:40 a.m. Monday morning, a Red Line train derailed shortly after departing from Farragut North Station. The D.C. Metrol accident was reportedly caused by a break in the railway, renewing concerns about the safety of the aging subway system in the nation’s capital

Reports of the crash indicate that shortly after the passenger trains departure from Farragut Station, a large bang was heard and the train began to shake violently before coming to a stop. The derailment reportedly sent the several car train sliding more than a 10,000 feet off the rails. No passenger or crew member injuries were reported.

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Riders were stranded in the subway cars for roughly 90 minutes, before they were evacuated safely by first responders. Metro released a statement apologizing to its riders for any inconvenience occurring from the incident and the delays expected over the next several days to make repairs on the track.

D.C. Fire and EMS personnel conducted a safety assessment of the derailment and concluded that due to no fires or smoke emanating in the tunnel that it was best for passengers to remain seated until the dust settled within the subway before releasing the passengers. Passengers and crew members were instructed to walk approximately 2,000 feet to the next subway platform.

On Monday night, rail workers were replacing a roughly 10-foot section of the rail. An investigation is still underway to determine whether the rail may have already been broken prior to the train’s departure, or whether the first several train cars cracked the rail, sending the last three cars of the eight car train off of the tracks.

According to WMATA officials, the defective track had undergone routine ultrasound testing in August 2017, to check for weakness or deterioration in the steel that could cause a train derailment. A supplemental inspection was done again on the same track in October 2017, and no reports of defects, weaknesses or alignment issues were reported.

Metro Board Chair Jack Evans was reported praising the advanced training and staffing changes made by D.C. Fire and EMS since January 2015, to protect train derailment passengers from smoke inhalation injuries, which caused the death of Metro rider Carol Glover in the 2015 L’Enfant Plaza derailment.

The train derailment adds to the growing annual occurrences of trains coming off of the tracks due to speeding, lack of repairs, or lack of safety equipment applied to the deteriorating railways across the United States.

One of the most recent derailments occurred on December 18, 2017 incident in Seattle Washington in which at least three people were killed and more than 100 were hospitalized after a new Amtrak Cascade train derailed while crossing a highway overpass, causing more than a dozen commuter train cars to come crashing down on vehicles.

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