“The safety management by WMATA and safety oversight by the Tri-State Oversight Committee are unacceptable, as we outlined in audits and approved corrective action requirements”, said Namrata Kolachalam, a department spokeswoman.
Under the current safety oversight structure, the [Tri-State Oversight Committee] does not have the authority to levy penalties or stop Metrorail revenue service for a track gage problem such as the one that existed for 27 days near the Smithsonian station and resulted in the derailment.
As part of its ongoing investigation into the deadly L’Enfant Plaza smoke incident, the NTSB says it examined the safety oversight of the Metro system’s rail operations in a hearing on June 23.
Their proposed solution urgent recommendation: shift federal responsibility for the agency from the Federal Transit Administration to the Federal Railroad Administration.
Over the past 33 years, the NTSB has investigated the rail system 11 times for accidents and incidents that led to 18 fatalities. It cites that agency’s “robust inspection, regulatory and enforcement authority” of passenger lines like Amtrak and freight railroads.
“The NTSB found little improvement in WMATA’s safety oversight since the 2009 Metrorail accident in Fort Totten that killed nine people”, the board said in a statement.
A woman died and more than 80 were made ill in January when a train became stranded in a smoky tunnel.
“Metro can and should be the nation’s premier public transportation system. The federal government has an important role to play in both funding and oversight to ensure safe and reliable service for all riders”. “How do you expect to have safe transportation systems and completely integrated transportation programs when we’re paying so much less in terms of transportation support than the rest of the countries in the world?” “I will give today’s NTSB recommendation serious thought, and am eager to hear the reactions of Northern Virginians as well”.
To make that happen the U.S. Department of Transportation would have to ask Congress to designate WMATA a “commuter authority”, which would put it under the auspices of the Federal Railroad Administration.
If Metro were placed under FRA oversight, it would mean a different set of inspectors and standards than apply to Metrorail now. The NTSB has pointed out critical safety flaws with the oversight structure for WMATA that need to be addressed.
The FTA said it has too few inspectors to keep an eye on the system.