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NTSB: Poor safeguards caused fatal 2010 Metro accident

WASHINGTON — Inadequate safeguards and poor communications are to blame for a Metro transit accident that killed two workers doing track work two years ago, federal safety investigators said Friday.

The National Transportation Safety Board issued its final report on the Jan. 26, 2010 accident, which occurred when a hi-rail vehicle struck and killed two automatic train control technicians who were working on the right of way near Metro’s Rockville station.

The report said there weren’t enough safeguards in place to protect workers from approaching hi-rail vehicles, which are trucks or automobiles that can be operated on the highway or the rail. The vehicle in this case was traveling on the track in reverse at about 13 miles per hour.

The report also said there was poor communication from the Operations Control Center about ongoing work, and that the hi-rail operator and crew weren’t advised that there would be workers in the area.

Metro general manager and CEO Richard Sarles said in a statement that it had already taken “necessary actions” to improve safety before the report was issued, including retrofitting the system’s hi-rail vehicles with audible alarms to protect workers and installing more lighting.

The NTSB also issued reports on a separate February 2010 incident in which the front wheel set of a train derailed at the Farragut North station in Washington, and a November 2009 rear-end collision of trains in the West Falls Church rail yard in Virginia.