Friday, December 7, 2012

'Lack of Confidence in the Equipment and People'

A very reliable Metro source calls Metro's reasoning for extending the Silver Line from Stadium Armory to Largo "total bullsh*t."

Metro gave three basic reasons why the Silver Line has to be extended rather than turning around at the D&G junction (Stadium Armory) as originally planned:
  • The pocket track uses #6 switches and due to an aerial construction design, #8 switches cannot be installed.
  • The entire pocket track is on an aerial structure and will require a high level of maintenance to maintain a high level of operational performance.
  • The length of the pocket track is not adequate for reliable 8-car train operation.
Yesterday, during the board meeting, Metro's number two, Dave Kubicek said a failure at the D&G could be "catastrophic."

This all sounded rather strange to me, so I asked very reliable source about Metro's reasoning. Here's what the source said.
They turn trains there all the time. They store trains there during football games, and for large events downtown that require a lot of trains in a short period of time to alleviate crowds. They have been doing it for 30 years. The 8-car train thing is ridiculous.

If these switches are that dangerous then why are they using them at all?
Also, did they balance the maintenance costs versus the extension cost? I haven't seen anything about that.
According to another source, before Rush"+," Metro routinely turned Orange Line trains around at the D&G. The same source said Metro should have upgraded the switches there with guards (ostensibly to prevent derailments) as recommended by the NTSB after a 2007 derailment.

"There are several places Metro turns trains around that are the same length as the D&G," the source said. "They turn them around at Mt. Vernon Sq. at about the same pace they're talking about with the Silver Line, too."

In a Washington Post article, Metro officials said "turning trains [at D&G]  would require a level of precision difficult for all but the most skilled operators."

One source's reaction:

I also thought it very ironic how just last week Sarles was bragging about the new hires stepping up to the plate. Then, this week, the operators are not competent enough to pull up to a signal, key down the train and go to the opposite end, key up and go. Most people could be trained to do that in 4 hours. It's first day operator stuff.

Here is what this all comes down to. They do not trust the new operators. PERIOD.
The source went on to explain the mistrust stems from the fact that Silver Line operators will likely be the newest in Metro's fleet.

There are several reasons why, they said. First, they will likely have to report to West Falls Church, considered by many one of the worst places to work because it is far from where most operators live, and many hate working for the West Falls Church Division superintendent.

Furthermore, operators at West Falls are assigned "awful" days off, and the runs blocks (shifts) are "awful."

"A lot of runs start at 6 a.m., make one round trip, and then the operator goes off duty for 4 or 5 hours only to come back on duty around 2 p.m. and make two round trips," a source said. "No one with any seniority would pick runs like that." 

Another source said they thought the change of plans for the Silver Line was "brought about by a lack of confidence in the equipment, even the upgraded equipment, and the people. That's why it's going to be extended, and that's why it's going to cost more."

The extension could cost as much as $4.5 million to the operating costs of the new line, according to reports.

Other items:
Silver Line could be delayed because of rail yard problem (Examiner)
Another brake part falls off moving train (Examiner)
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