Metro crash chiefs ignored warning

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The Independent US

One day after a collision killed at least seven commuters on Washington's underground system, a senior federal transport official revealed that managers of the network had been told three years ago to make important safety upgrades to parts of its fleet but had never done so.

Cranes and heavy lifting equipment were still on the scene last night, prying apart the two trains involved in the accident which happened during Monday's evening rush hour. One train was stationary as a second train struck it from behind, crushing and ripping open carriages. The death toll was expected to rise further with some passengers in hospital with critical injuries. It was the worst crash in the system's 33-year history and occurred on the Red Line, the busiest branch in the network. Nearly 80 people were taken to hospital. Mayor Adrian Fenty said one carriage had been squashed to about one third of its original size.

Deborah Hersman, chairwoman-designate of the National Transport Safety Board, was quick in her criticism of the management of the network saying the failure to upgrade equipment was "unacceptable". The second train was composed of some of the oldest carriages in the network and her agency had recommended in 2006 that they be retro-fitted or phased out because they were not sufficiently crash-worthy.

The agency, which took over the investigation of the crash, had also told managers of the Metrorail system to address the fact that the older trains were not fitted with recorder devices. Again no action had been taken.