Lawmakers call out D.C. Metro for 'systemic failure'
Inspectors for the city’s beleaguered Metro system knew of deteriorated track a year before a July derailment, but supervisors routinely ignored problems and may have falsified reports, according to a federal crash report.
Paul Wiedefeld, general manager and CEO of the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA), told a House hearing Friday that he has hired two independent prosecutors to determine whether inspection reports were falsified. He declined to comment further because the probe is ongoing.
But members of the House Oversight subcommittees on transportation and government operations said the incident illustrated the danger and unreliability of the country’s second-largest transit system, which averages 700,000 passengers daily. The system carries an estimated one-third of federal government workers in the region to their jobs.
“What we have here is a systemic failure to address real problems,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C. “To hear reports of falsified reports, it’s mind-blowing.”
“My recommendation is to fire them,” said Rep. John Mica, R-Fla.
The Virginia derailment July 29 near the East Falls Church station happened because the tracks had widened too far to hold a train’s wheels, according to a Thursday report by the National Transportation Safety Board. Nobody was injured, but damage was estimated at nearly $150,000.
Interviews with track inspectors suggested that reports are falsified to state that damaged tracks are in good condition. At the East Falls Church site, the track had moved 2 to 3.25 inches and reports dating to January 2015 cited deteriorating wooden ties, which NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said may have dated to original construction decades earlier.
“The NTSB’s investigation of accidents involving WMATA continue to illustrate that rail transit accidents cause injuries and deaths, and yet oversight of rail transit is unreliable in some cases, increasing safety risk,” Hart said.
A track inspector, Lawrence Simmons, who was interviewed for the report, said a supervisor routinely “sweeps stuff under the rug.”
Raymond Jackson, second vice president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, said workers are harassed by managers and given tasks that are impossible to complete in the time allowed, under threat of discipline if they don't comply.
But Jackson said he would go along with firing workers who intentionally falsified reports.
“If it was their intent to falsify the document, yes I will,” Jackson said.
Wiedefeld, who took office a year ago Wednesday, has fired 20 managers for poor performance and reduced the workforce by 500 to balance the budget.
“You have my full commitment that I will continue to work to get Metro back to good,” Wiedefeld said.
The derailment followed a series of crises for Metro, including a January 2015 fire near the L’Enfant Plaza station that killed one passenger and injured 90 others. The system shut down for a day in March in order to conduct emergency inspections.
Nearly 17,000 safety problems that have been cited since 2008 remain unfixed, according to the NTSB report.
“The system continues to be plagued by safety incidents on an almost weekly basis,” Mica said.
A maintenance program called SafeTrack began in June to complete three years’ worth of repairs in one year. Even so, problems remain such as a train stalling in September near the Farragut North station, where passengers got off the train on their own and walked down the tracks while the power remained on.
Wiedefeld said workers didn’t follow protocols during the incident, but that communications between workers and with passengers must be improved.
“There was definitely frustration,” Wiedefeld said. “It’s just not acceptable.”
Source: USA Today
Questions 1-5: Match the people (A-F) with the right description of them. You may choose any person more than once.
A. Raymond Jackson
B. John Mica
C. Paul Wiedefeld
D. Lawrence Simmons
E. Mark Meadows
F. Christopher Hart
1. This person argues that the rights of rail workers are abused.
2. This person has reduced rail staff of both managerial and non-managerial positions.
3. This person refused to give press more information about the incident because investigation still continues.
4. This person claims that there are some technical issues which affect the train system every week.
5. This person believes that current problems are a result of earlier faults and drawbacks in building the train system.
Please find the answers here.
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