Much like the airline industry it is always interesting to read the after action reports of an accident or incident. Now that I am involved with trains, those actions seem to play a larger role in my duties and responsibilities. I received a call from my sister a few minutes ago asking if I had heard about the head on collision of the two Metro trains in the Washington D.C. area. I had not, so as soon as I got home I pulled up some information on the crash.
Of course it is too early to determined just what caused the crash, but there is a good chance we could see some repercussions because of the accident. Similar to BART implementing a “no texting” policy for train operators after the deadly crash in Los Angeles a few months back. Well, that no texting policy, as well as no mobile devices at all when in position at console was also implemented for safety reasons. Makes sense.
This accident in D.C. was a head on crash, which is almost an impossibility in the BART system. Trains run (usually) in automatic, also known as ATO. Routes that generate through an interlocking, open an entry gate and then lock that ATO route for the train to go through. There is no way two ATO routes can generate which would cause two trains to end up in a head on collision at 70 mph.
With that said, there are many times where trains will occupy the same track, but one of the two trains will diverge in the front of the other at an interlocking. This is quite common in my daily routine. I did see a potential problem one day when two trains, potentially both in ATO that could have had a “cornfield meet”, where two trains are nose to nose and one much change ends and go the direction they came, Of course a head on could not have occurred because there was an electronic gate separating the two trains and one departing the station would have no ATO speed codes, while the inbound train would have profiled down to a stop.
Nonetheless any accident of this magnitude is unfortunate. I will be more interested in the cause of the accident than I normally would have been if I were still involved in the airline industry. Story developing…