MARC train issued the following message to riders following Thursday’s commute, in which service was impacted by a derailment of an Amtrak train south of Union Station.
MARC Train regrets the inconveniences passengers experienced last night at Union Station. Just after noon, an Amtrak train arriving from New Orleans derailed while arriving at Union Station. MARC Train sent an initial notification out to customers that service would not be significantly impacted because the incident occurred on the lower level of Union Station (the tracks that lead south to Virginia) which MARC Train does not use. This message was sent out as quickly as possible since some media outlets were reporting that the derailment was north of Union Station near New York Avenue, which was incorrect.
What was not known at that time due to the fluid situation was that all trains – Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express – would have to use two (instead of six) platform tracks at Union Station and one (instead of two) tracks through the tunnel to Virginia. Amtrak trains began to quickly back-up and at approximately 3:30pm there were no available tracks or platforms to put inbound Amtrak trains from the north.
Southbound MARC trains became stuck behind these Amtrak trains north of Union Station. Compounding the situation was that these MARC trains have the Conductors, Engineers and equipment used to operate northbound rush hour trains. Trains were turned around as quickly and safely as possible, however, another problem developed when yet another round of severe thunderstorms swept through the area. This led to flooding on the tracks near the Anacostia River and Route 50 overpass between Washington and New Carrollton, requiring both Amtrak and MARC trains to operate at significantly reduced speeds to ensure safety.
Information is shared as quickly as the MARC Train Operations and Communications Center receives it, and sent to customers through Email, text, Twitter, and the MTA website. However, circumstances and information change rapidly during these fluid situations. The most accurate information is always provided, and updates are provided as they are received. The current E-alert system MARC Train shares with other MTA modes is over seven years old and is in the final stages of being replaced, with testing in August and planned launch in September. Also underway is an overhaul of the MARC Tracker system which will provide much improved train tracking accuracy and an updated user interface, which includes the electronic signage at stations.
Customers are reminded to ensure that the address <firstname.lastname@example.org> is on your “safe” list and not blocked (note that the first “alert” in the email address is singular and the second is plural). We also recommend that you use a personal e-mail address as many business and government email servers block group subscription email services like the one MTA uses.
MARC Train regrets the inconveniences that passengers have experienced from late and cancelled trains during the past several weeks. Another message will be sent next week which will address the issues behind these delays and what is being done to improve service. Thank you for riding MARC Train.