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VRE Director Writes to Riders About Wednesday's Delays

Chris Henry, director of rail operations for the Virginia Railway Express, addresses Wednesday's massive delays resulting from non-human body parts being found in Manassas Park during rush hour.

From the Virginia Railway Express, Sept. 20

First of all, let me apologize to all of you who were caught up in last night's delays on the Manassas Line. It turned into a very long commute for many, and we regret the inconvenience this incident certainly caused.

Secondly, I would like to thank all of the passengers, families of passengers, and local law enforcement officers, who offered assistance at both Burke Centre and in Clifton as we were transferring passengers to buses. This was greatly appreciated.

Of course, a big thank you goes out to the PRTC and Fairfax Connector bus operators and supervisors who ultimately provided safe transportation for our passengers to their destination stations.

Now, let me summarize the events that occurred and how the evening played out:

At approximately 5:45 pm, we were notified about a suspicious bag observed near the tracks just north of the Manassas Park station. Authorities were notified, and working with the Norfolk Southern dispatcher, train traffic was stopped for an initial investigation. At that point, VRE Train 331 was north of Clifton, Train 333 was at Burke Centre, and Train 335 was approaching Rolling Road. We held 333 and 335 at those respective stations, in case we would need to transfer passengers to buses.

We immediately contacted the local bus companies, PRTC, and Fairfax Connector to ask for their assistance. As is usually the case, this incident occurred during rush hour, so buses were not instantly available, but would be sent our way as soon as they came off their normal routes. We had the conductors on board the affected trains get passenger counts so that we could arrange for enough buses to handle the crowd.

When it was verified the investigation was going to take at least an hour, we dispatched the buses along with VRE and Keolis staff to Burke Centre and Clifton to assist with the bus move. We were able to get 14 buses to Burke Centre to take care of the passengers on 333 and 335, while 7 buses were sent to Clifton for the passengers on 331 and VRE passengers on Amtrak 171.

By this time Train 337 had passed Alexandria and was trying to get onto the Norfolk Southern Line, but was unfortunately blocked by an Amtrak train. While our intent was to offload everyone at Burke Centre, this train had to reverse direction back to Alexandria and our passengers were asked to make other arrangements for their return home. Most went by taxi, for which they will be reimbursed by VRE.

The last bus pulled out of Burke Centre at about 9:15 pm, while the seventh bus departed Clifton with the last passengers at approximately 9:45 pm.

In our recap/after-action meeting this morning it was discussed that despite the volume of passengers, everything at Burke Centre and Alexandria went as smoothly as could be expected with a lot of credit being given to the level of cooperation and assistance of the passengers themselves.

Rich Dalton, Director of Rail Equipment and Services, and I were at Clifton and admittedly we did have a few issues resulting in some confusion while boarding the buses and getting everyone on their way. I will reiterate my earlier apology, especially to those 49 Broad Run passengers who had to wait for the seventh bus.

As I mentioned, we have completed an after-action meeting and have discussed all of the opportunities for improvement as we face situations like this in the future. The best way to get really good at handling these things is to have them occur more often, but we'd rather take what lessons learned we can from each event and hope that it never happens again.

Once again, thank you for your patience and understanding, and, of course, for making VRE your commuting choice.

Sincerely,

Chris Henry

Director of Rail Operations

Anonymous Contributor September 21, 2012 at 06:38 PM
The next time, please get us off of the train as soon as possible so we can find our own way home.

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