Six railcars at the end of a Red Line train detached Monday morning as the train approached Maryland’s Rockville station, causing two passengers to be evacuated onto the tracks.
Metro officials say they are investigating the incident, which occurred on one of the new eight-car trains in the transit agency’s 7000-series fleet. None of the 40 passengers aboard the train were injured, Metro said in a statement.
“The train’s safety system worked as intended and brought the train cars to a stop,” Metro spokeswoman Sherri Ly said.
It took about an hour and a half for both sections of the train to be cleared off the tracks. One of the evacuated passengers said she was told by a Metro employee that the rails near where she was walking were electrified; a spokeswoman for the Metro system said the status of the rails during the evacuation was under investigation. Most of the passengers aboard the train exited at the platform.
The “uncoupling” was the latest in a series of incidents on Metro — including electrical arcing, a derailment, numerous red-signal violations and a dangerous tunnel self-evacuation — that have undermined public confidence in the safety of the public transit system.
Last January, two cars separated on an older 3000-series train near Navy Yard station on the Green Line. In that case, there was an 18-inch gap between the cars; they were soon reattached and moved to a railyard for repairs. Weeks later, Metro officials announced that the “undesired uncoupling” was caused by a spring that was too pliant, and the presence of moisture in the train’s pneumatic lines.
Monday’s incident took place just after 9 a.m., after the train passed Twinbrook station. Jamie Garrison, who works at a clinical research organization in Rockville, was sitting in the front car, listening to a podcast, when she felt a jolt. The train came to an abrupt stop.
“I thought we hit a stick or something like that,” Garrison recalled later. The operator left the cab of the train and jogged to the back, talking into his radio, she said.
Garrison texted her co-workers to alert them that she might be late for a conference call. She said she called her dad to catch up for a few minutes, and saw the operator run back and forth inside the car a few more times.
Finally, she heard the announcement: “We’ll have you off the train momentarily.”
Garrison then looked behind her. Through the windows of the second car, she could see the rest of the train stalled a few dozen feet away.
Garrison and one other woman were evacuated onto the tracks, where they were directed to step onto the wooden rail ties and head back toward Twinbrook station. Garrison said she and the other passenger were told that the metal rails on the tracks were electrified. She said that no one from Metro accompanied them as they walked.
“I actually asked the guy, ‘Does this have electricity?’ And he said, ‘These two don’t, but that one is live, so stay on the wooden tracks,’ ” Garrison recalled.
Ly said she could not confirm the woman’s account because the agency was still piecing together what had happened and investigating “the handling of the incident.”
A third woman was sitting near the front of the train, but could not be evacuated onto the tracks because of mobility issues, Garrison said. She stayed on the train until it was taken to the next platform.
During the incident, single-tracking took place between the Grosvenor and Shady Grove stations. The delays were largely limited to people headed outbound on the Red Line.
Garrison said that after she arrived at the Twinbrook platform, she was asked if she was injured, then was directed to wait for another train to arrive on the opposite side of the tracks to take her one stop to Rockville.
She said she was a little annoyed as she tapped her way out of the fare gates. “I was like, ‘I can’t believe I still have to pay for my commute, after all of this.’ ”
Garrison, who commutes daily to Rockville from her apartment home in Dupont Circle and does not have a car, said the experience has made her question whether she’s safe riding Metro.
“They’ve been having problems for a really long time, and I know they’re trying to fix them,” Garrison said. “But the progress is not fast enough, and clearly they still have some things to work out.”
Victoria St. Martin contributed to this report.