Heat Kink Disrupts Metrorail Service

Incident 3rd in Week To Affect Orange Line

By Lena H. Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 12, 2008; Page B01

A heat kink in a track between the East Falls Church and Ballston-MU Metro stations caused major delays on the Orange Line well into the evening yesterday. It was the third incident in just over a week on the line, Metro's second busiest, where the crowded trains are dubbed the Orange Crush.

The heat kink, a bend in the rails caused by high temperatures, was discovered after a train operator headed to New Carrollton saw something unusual in the tracks between East Falls Church and Ballston and stopped his six-car train, Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said. The operator was an eight-year veteran, she said.

"If the train had continued over those tracks, there would have been a potential for the wheels to pop off," she said.

As a result, Orange Line trains had to share a track at reduced speeds between the East Falls Church and Ballston-MU stations, officials said. Metro also ran free shuttle buses between stations on that line.

The incident was the latest in a series that has disrupted service on the Orange Line in recent days. Debris and downed power lines stopped service between the East Falls Church and West Falls Church stations last week, leaving hundreds of passengers waiting in the rain for shuttle buses. On Monday, a six-car train derailed, trapping 412 riders in the tunnel between the Rosslyn and Court House stations for nearly two hours and triggering massive backups and delays.

Riders expressed anger in e-mails and on message boards and blogs.

"So, on Monday a train derailed at Court House, last night going home the train in front of mine was off-loaded at Foggy Bottom, this morning coming in the train ahead of mine was off-loaded at Virginia Square, and now this tonight?!" a rider said in an e-mail to The Washington Post. "What gives with the Orange Line this week?" Luckily, she said, she is switching jobs and will no longer be riding that line. "After four years of taking Metro to work, this last week on the Orange Line is making me SO GLAD that I won't have to depend on it anymore."

Metro Deputy General Manager Gerald Francis said it was a coincidence that all the incidents were on the Orange Line. The train offloads were caused by rail-car problems, he said.

Personnel were scheduled to work though the evening to replace the affected track, Farbstein said. Metro hoped to be running normal service by this morning's rush hour, she said.

A separate problem with a track circuit at Ballston initially hampered Metro's ability to maneuver around the kink by having trains share a track. Eventually, the problem was resolved.

Metro operated 20 free shuttle buses between the Ballston and Vienna/Fairfax-GMU stations, with stops in between, to help passengers. But they had to wait 30 minutes for the buses, which can hold 60 people. A six-car train can carry 800 passengers.

Metro officials were also urging passengers to take Metrobus routes 38B, which stops at the Ballston, Clarendon and Court House stations, and 24P, which stops at the Ballston and Clarendon stations, for travel to downtown at no charge.

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