Honolulu rail authority suspends vehicle operations after 2 derailments, train incident
One of the new Honolulu rail cars was damaged in an “incident,” and another work vehicle that runs on the rail line derailed twice in January.
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One of the new Honolulu rail cars was damaged in an “incident,” and another work vehicle that runs on the rail line derailed twice in January, prompting the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation to issue a “safety stand-down” letter last month suspending vehicle operations, according to rail officials.
Hill International Inc., which is monitoring the Honolulu rail project for the Federal Transit Administration, reported that Ansaldo Honolulu Joint Venture “experienced several safety issues” in January that triggered a Feb. 12 letter ordering the rail contractor to halt vehicle operations until the safety hazards are resolved.
“After two derailments involving hi-rail vehicles and damage to train #3, HART sent a letter” to Ansaldo requiring the safety stand-down on vehicle operations, according to the federal monitor’s report.
Rail spokesman Bill Brennan said in a written statement that the monitor’s account “isn’t quite correct,” and said rail car No. 3 was not involved in a derailment. He said a work vehicle operated by an Ansaldo subcontractor derailed twice on the same day because a rail switch was twice left in the wrong position.
“Train #3 did incur some minor damage in a separate incident that was not a derailment,” Brennan said in his statement. He said workers pushed a train onto a section of track where the energized third rail had been disassembled, and broke off the “shoes” under the car that connect to the third rail. He said Ansaldo will have to repair the damage at its own expense.
Rail officials have been testing rail cars within the maintenance and storage facility next to Leeward Community College.
HART board of directors member Ember Shinn said the derailments happened in mid-January and that she learned of them at a meeting with the federal monitor. She was unsure whether anyone was on board at the time, but said there were no injuries and that the damage to the rail car was relatively minor.
“Any damage is worrisome, but it’s not like it was totally destroyed,” Shinn said. “I called it a fender bender, but it shouldn’t happen.”
Shinn said she does not believe the derailments signal a significant problem with the rail operating system. “I don’t think so. I think that it’s part of the overall testing, and they were just running testing and maneuvers consistent with their operating plan to do this testing. It’s good that it happened now rather than later.”
“Obviously, I was concerned about it, and certainly HART, I think, acted appropriately by standing down and not allowing any further movement of the rail cars until they had complied with our requirements,” she said. “They handled this appropriately, and that’s what I was concerned about.”
According to Brennan’s statement, the safety stand-down for Ansaldo “was basically a call for Ansaldo Honolulu to stop train testing due to its lack of written safety rules and safety enforcement and to allow Ansaldo to address the deficiencies and improve its safety culture. Ansaldo has complied, and HART has since given Ansaldo the go-ahead to again perform train testing.”
The report by the federal monitor does not describe the accidents, but said they highlight the need for Ansaldo to hire a permanent construction safety manager. Ansaldo’s construction safety and security manager’s position is being filled temporarily by the operations safety manager, according to the report.
Ansaldo is responsible for manufacturing 80 Honolulu rail cars and developing and installing the driverless rail operating system under a $574 million contract with the city. Ansaldo also has an $830 million contract to operate and maintain the entire 20-mile Honolulu rail line for 14 years.
Officials with Ansaldo did not respond to a request for comment.
The rail operations center is supposed to be fully functional by Sunday, and Hill International reported the derailments and the suspension of rail car operations for safety reasons have not affected that schedule.