Metro Train Derails, Causing Major Delays

At approximately 2:45 p.m., one wheel of an Orange Line train derailed between the Rosslyn and Courthouse stations. No injuries were reported but passengers were on the train for close to two hours. Video by Anna Uhls/
By Lena H. Sun and Daniela Deane
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, June 10, 2008

An Orange Line train heading toward Vienna derailed yesterday in the tunnel between the Rosslyn and Court House stations, causing major backups and delays of up to an hour on Metro's second-busiest line just before the afternoon rush and persisting into the evening. Delays were expected to continue this morning.

There were no reports of injuries, but a pregnant passenger was sent to a hospital for observation, Metro officials said. Metro used a rescue train to evacuate 412 passengers from the derailed train, including a man in a wheelchair, officials said.

Metro was operating free shuttle buses at the Foggy Bottom-GWU, Virginia Square-GMU and Court House stations along the Orange Line, but each bus held only about 50 people.

As the investigation continued last night, Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. instructed rail personnel to distribute fliers about the problems and said they should urge riders to avoid the Orange Line entirely.

Today's morning rush will be disrupted because of "significant damage" to track components and infrastructure, including the automatic train control equipment that keeps the trains moving at safe intervals, spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said. Riders should build an extra 30 minutes into their morning commutes, she added. Blue Line trains will not be affected.

Catoe said officials do not know what caused the front wheels of the third car of the six-car train to derail 1,100 feet from the Court House station. Until personnel can determine what caused the derailment -- whether it was track-related or train-related, for example -- the agency will not allow trains to use that section of track.

"We're going to fix whatever caused this," said Catoe, who was at the Court House station just after the train derailed at 2:45 p.m. "We will do what it takes for as long as it takes to fix this. We will not open this track until then."

Personnel were planning to work at the derailment site through the night, officials said.

Unlike the January 2007 derailment of a Green Line train at the Mount Vernon Square station that injured 20 people, yesterday's incident appeared to be less serious. It happened on a 2000-Series car, not the troubled 5000-Series cars that have been involved in at least five derailments since they went into service in 2001. The 2000-Series car is one of the older model rail cars.

And unlike last week, when severe thunderstorms caused power lines and trees to fall onto tracks between East Falls Church and West Falls Church and passengers complained about poor communication by Metro, riders yesterday said the evacuation process was relatively smooth.

The evacuation took about an hour and 45 minutes. By 4:25 p.m., the rescue train had pulled into the Court House station. Some passengers got off at Court House, but most riders stayed on the rescue train, which made stops at every station on the Orange Line to Vienna, officials said.

Nina Janopaul, 50, who was on the derailed train, described some riders as laughing and cheerful as she walked through the train to reach the rescue train, escorted by Arlington County firefighters.

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