Posted by: Salvatore J. Zambri, Esquire
Five days before last week’s deadly Metro crash, Metro employees replaced a component of the rail system known as a Wee-Z bond, a device that keeps trains at a safe distance apart, said WMATA’s Rail Chief, Dave Kubicek. Yesterday, transit officials confirmed that the device malfunctioned, and no one at Metro detected the problem, according to a report by Lena Sun and Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post. The report comments that investigators and transit officials commented yesterday that the circuitry malfunctioned and no one at Metro detected the problem.
The rail system is supposed to be fail-safe. Yesterday’s revelations put Metro’s maintenance workers in the spotlight. The hazard should have been discovered before the June 22 tragedy that killed 9 and injured at least 80 others.
According to the Post report, “Transit officials would not say yesterday whether they believe the malfunction was a result of faulty equipment or poor installation, citing the investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.”
The track circuit at issue “fluttered”, according to Kubicek. One moment it would detect a train, and then the train would “disappear”. He added that “Metro did not realize that there was problem until officials began examining data after the accident.”
Metro is now replacing many of the system’s Wee-Z bonds because they are “approaching the end of their usefulness,” according to David Couch, who leads Metro’s infrastructure projects.Of course, this raises the question: Why weren’t they replaced earlier? We know that at least one was well beyond its usefulness, unless it was incorrectly installed or maintained.
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