Blue Line train misrouted to Orange Line, bewildering riders

By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 1, 2010; B10

A Blue Line train took a wrong turn Tuesday after a controller manually sent it toward New Carrollton on the Orange Line, causing confusion and some panic among passengers.

Metro's chief safety officer, James Dougherty, was investigating the incident. But Metro did not report it to the Tri-State Oversight Committee, which oversees safety at the agency, as it was not required to under the committee's rules, said Matt Bassett, chairman of the committee.

"It was never a safety issue. There was no problem with the switch or the train," Metro spokeswoman Cathy Asato said.

Janine Jackson was on Car 2042 coming out of Stadium-Armory, a transfer station for the Blue and Orange lines, about 4:50 p.m. when the train stopped abruptly. "All of a sudden, [the operator] braked really hard, and we thought we had hit something," said Jackson, 47, who was on her way home from her job as a customer service representative at a printing company.

"It made me jump because she braked so hard," she said. "Everyone looked around to see what was going on."

The train operator announced that because of a switching error, the train had left the Blue Line and was mistakenly headed toward New Carrollton on the Orange Line, she said.

After a delay, the train carried the passengers to Minnesota Avenue Station on the Orange Line, where they boarded another train to return to Stadium-Armory and then boarded a Blue Line train headed toward Largo Town Center.

"People were kind of peeved; at that point, we just wanted to get home," said Jackson, who commutes daily on Metro.

Metro said a controller at the operations control center misrouted the train at the Stadium-Armory junction. "The controller manually chose New Carrollton, which was a mistake on his part," Asato said. "Both the controller and the operator will be retrained."

Overall, the mishap caused a delay of about eight minutes, Asato said. "We apologize."

Bassett said he was seeking more information on the incident.

"It's not the kind of incident on which we require Metro to report, but we are interested in it," Bassett said. "I have spoken to their chief safety officer, and they are looking into it . . . and we will be talking with them to learn the results of their investigation."

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