VRE's Fredericksburg service was halted Tuesday as D.C. Metropolitan Police secured L’Enfant Station to investigate a suspicious package. Trains were delayed up to an hour, according to VRE, and then VRE had some trains skip stops to lessen congestion and reduce delays.
Rich Dalton, VRE director of rail equipment and services, and Chris Henry, director of rail operations, addressed the issues in Wednesday's online forum. Their remarks about the situation preceded the usual question and answer format, and are included here in there entirety.
We would first like to start off by saying we apologize for any inconveniences experienced last night as a result of the disruption. In today’s world, we have to take every threat seriously as we constantly work with local police and host railroads to keep our passengers safe. As you may know, Metropolitan PD was conducting an investigation of a suspicious package near our L’Enfant station. While that package was not near the tracks, it was in close enough proximity to warrant stopping all rail traffic through the area.
Around 3:30 p.m, we were informed of police activity at the L’Enfant station. We immediately called Metropolitan PD to ask what was going on and they informed us of the investigation. At first they told CSX they didn’t need to hold rail traffic as it was far enough away not to affect our passengers. Eventually, as the investigation went on, the police then decided it was necessary to close rail traffic at about 4:10p. It took them another hour to wrap up their investigation and give the all clear to proceed.
As many veteran riders know, when lengthy delays (half an hour or more) occur at the beginning of the trip, we need to address the crowding that will occur and lengthy delays we already have. We understand that skipping stations is not a popular decision and only do it when absolutely necessary. Bypassing stations allows us to spread out passengers among several trains to reduce crowding. Also, this puts more space in between to allow the trains to go faster to get you home. Imagine when there is congestion on the highway; when you have so many vehicles so close to another, they have to slow down so they don’t hit each other. The only way to safely achieve maximum speed is when there is enough room between the cars. It is the same for our trains on the tracks.
Please know that skipping stations is made in the best interest of the riders and railroad as a whole. Trains are less crowded and trains are able to move faster. Again, we understand the frustration of seeing a train pass by. And although you may see empty seats, they will definitely get filled up by the riders at the stations downline who are also delayed. Some feel that our communication was not up to par and know your criticism has been heard. While we sent out numerous emails about what was going on, we know not everybody got that info. Clear, correct, succinct information is our goal every time during these events as we know that good information does a lot to lessen frustration.