Morning Metro Delays Due to a Broken Rail Caused by Huge Temperature Changes

Photo by PoPville flickr user pablo.raw


“Metro is advising riders on the Blue and Yellow lines of the possibility of 20 to 30 minute delays during the morning commute due to a broken rail between Braddock Road and Reagan National Airport stations.

The broken rail, located south of the airport, will require that crews install a new 39-foot section of rail. Blue and Yellow line trains will single track between Braddock Road and Reagan National Airport stations until repairs are completed.

Broken rails (also known as “cracked” rails) can be caused by sharp changes in temperature as a result of the expansion of metal in heat and contraction in cold. A rapid change from expansion to contraction can cause the steel rails to develop breaks that must be repaired before trains can safely pass the area. Most rail breaks are detected automatically by Metro’s signal system.

Reagan National Airport has seen a 50-degree swing in temperatures over recent days, from a high of 59 degrees on Monday to a low of 9 degrees on Wednesday.”

UPDATE: “As of 8 a.m., Metro personnel have completed repairs to the broken rail south of Reagan National Airport. Trains are no longer single tracking. Riders can expect minor residual delays as service returns to normal.”

Update: @wowindc tweets us the scene at Gallery Place around 8:45am:


11 Comment

  • Meanwhile in NYC, Boston, Chicago, Montreal, Toronto, Moscow, St Petersburg, etc… rails don’t crack…
    But here in DC it is or the cold, or the heat, or the water, and in last resort it is due to the passengers… But it is never, NEVER, due to metro lack of maintenance, incompetence, lack of reliability and accountability…

    • Rail lines crack in these places all the time due to cold. Here is an example in Boston: A simple Google search turns up many more examples.

    • The bigger difference might be that in many of those places, there are 3 lines so when there is an issue on one, there is another way for trains to move. In most of DC’s system there are only the two tracks, so when something happens we have to wait until it gets fixed.

      • Seriously, I hate the constant “Metro sucks” refrain. They actually do a very decent job — comparable to most other mass transit systems — but DC, MD, and VA cheaped out when building Metro and only built two lines.

    • Another difference between the places you mentioned and DC is that in the north, the weather gets cold and typically remains cold for most of, if not all of, the winter. DC has a weird climate where the weather goes from 65 to 10 degrees in a day or two and then right back to 45 (and so on). The quick and drastic change in temperatures is what causes the cracks.

      That said, I do find it odd that when the Metro was designed, no one thought that it would be a good idea to have extra tracks everywhere. Our Metro is new compared to the other rail systems, so it should have been included. Was it a budget issue?

    • figby

      Better raise the rates.

  • This is the Red Line platform at GP. What’s the issue that led to this congestion, given that the cracked rail was on the Blue/Yellow line?

    • It’s a weekday at 8:45 am. We were lucky it wasn’t more crowded. They were also running trains with 6-8 minute headways it seemed, which wasn’t helping the situation, but there was no announced delay or problem.

      • That platform looks more like it did at 10:00 Wednesday (when everybody headed to work at once!) than it does at 8:45 on a typical morning. Given the high volume of people moving through the station at that hour, though, if Metro was running trains that far apart for some unknown reason, that was probably enough to jack things up.

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