Investigations Underway For D.C. Metro System Electrical Malfunction

Following the incident that happened with regard to a Metro system electrical malfunction in January, Federal investigators who have been investigating the incident, recommended that the oversight of the troubled subway system be assumed by the federal government. Should this happen, it will come as an unexpected step considering that the metro subway, which is the country’s second busiest transit network, serves a large mass of commuters each day.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the safety oversight of the metro system should be taken over by the Federal Railroad Commission. This follows a fatal electrical malfunction that left commuters stranded inside a downtown Washington tunnel, with smoke filling up the train. From that incident, one passenger was reported to have died with more than eighty others being sickened in the wake of the malfunction. The incident also left a large number of commuters heavily shaken. This has led to the network, currently overseen by a state-level agency, shaking confidence amongst the commuters and other parties of interest.

However, for this recommendation to sail through, the congress would be required to pass a law reclassifying metro as a commuter rail network so as to give way for the commission to take over its oversight. This move has already received support from the members of Congress representing the Washington area.

The malfunction brought about the first fatality on the metro transit network, since the 2009 catastrophic crash that left nine people dead. According to the National Transportation Safety board, the safety oversight of Metro had not improved since the 2009 crash. In a letter addressed to Anthony Foxx, the transportation secretary, by the chairman of the investigating board, Christopher Hart, there is need for adequate oversight to avoid such incidents and accidents that would otherwise place a risk at the rail network’s passengers.

Namrata Kolachalam, a spokeswoman at the transportation department noted that, the agency would consider the recommendations of the National Transportation safety Board, and that it was also looking into options that would amplify federal oversight of the Metro transit network.

As it stands, the safety oversight of Metro is handled by a regional committee that has representatives from Maryland, Virginia, and District of Columbia. However, the committee does not have enforcement authority, which creates an unacceptable gap in system safety according to Hart. In contrast, this would not be the case if the federal commission took over metro’s safety oversight. This is because the commission has the authority to suspend rail operations to avail adequate time for needed repairs as well as issue fines.

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