Wednesday, June 24, 2009

D.C. Metro Crash Computer Failure Likely, Outsourcing Probed

"We cannot afford to lose any more of our own, or any more of our customers."

-D.C. Metro General Manager John Catoe

Fatal DC Metro Crash: Computer Failure Likely, Outsourcing Probed

WASHINGTON – Who's running the computers and providing the software engineering infrastructure solutions that operate the nation's mass rail trains?

LWOH has learned that one multinational corporation Bentley Systems, headquartered in Exton, PA with over 50 offices worldwide, lists on its website that it provides an impressive enterprise solution called the Optram Enterprise Suite for rail infrastructure management to the Washington Metro Area’s WMATA. (Full disclosure: no link to Bentley Systems and the incident is implied.) In addition to the D.C. Metro, Bentley Systems also lists that it provides the same comprehensive “corridor asset management solution of choice” for leading freight and transit providers, including:


  • CSX

  • Atlanta’s MARTA

  • Network Rail

  • San Francisco’s BART

This report includes a 2003 press release announcing that Bentley Systems moved its “select testing and quality assurance operations” to India as a part of its development initiatives:

The US-based $230 million Bentley Systems, a leading provider of infrastructure engineering software solutions, is moving its testing and quality assurance operations to India as a part of its development initiatives.

The company has already set up a centre for this purpose in Mumbai, and has employed around 15 engineers.

"Currently, the entire core software development work happens out of the US. We also have a development centre in Finland. We are now looking at how we can expand our operations in India," Sandeep Srivastava, managing director, Bentley Systems India Pvt Ltd, said.”

According to the press release, BS also has strategic relationships with multinational project engineering companies such as Forster Wheeler, Bechtel, Fluor Daniel and Montgomery Watson who successfully use Bentley technology to run single virtual teams across countries including India.

Computer failure may have caused Tuesday's fatal DC Metro train crash, according to a preliminary report by the NTSB as they search for clues to explain why the computerized system designed to prevents such disasters failed. Outsourcing/insourcing American jobs to cheap, dubiously “skilled” third world workers is not only hazardous to the financial health of American citizens and the economy but to the U.S. population's health and safety.

As LWOH has reported, the Obama administration's eyebrow raising appointment of Vivek Kundra for Chief Information Officer and Aneesh Chopra for Chief Technology Officer on the heels of a Federal bribery sting raised more questions into the wholesale selling out of American jobs including D.C. Virginia state jobs to inshored and offshored foreign nationals, all in the name of fun and profit for a few corporate and beltway insiders who game the U.S. Government's contract/bids system. Recall Kundra's ties to D.C.'s Optimal Solutions and Technologies (OST), an outsourcing company with transportation contract awards where Kundra once served as a board member. (h/t/ Rob Sanchez.)

IT outsourcing company, GRPA (G.R. Patel & Associates, Inc.) with offices in India lists among its customers the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), the World Bank, among others. (Full disclosure: no link to GRPA and the incident implied.)

Today Federal Investigators plan to test the computerized controls for “Metro trains”, although the report did not clarify if they will limit the tests the D.C. Metro rail system or the entire nation's metro transit systems as well in search for answers to the cause/prevention of yesterday's deadly crash responsible for two area Metro transit trains colliding that killed at least nine people.

In particular, officials are focusing on why a computerized system failed to halt an oncoming train, despite evidence that the train operator tried to slow it down. In the meantime, this is hardly cold comfort for the families who lost their loved ones in this tragic, avoidable collision.

Will the people of this country finally unite together and rally to throw the bums out of political office who enable the wholesale sell out of our jobs for profit as they lust for cheap, foreign labor?

Perhaps D.C. Metro General Manager John Catoe summed it up best when he said:

"We cannot afford to lose any more of our own, or any more of our customers."



Rob said...

That's great research on Bentley.

Be sure to read this one:

2Truthy said...

Thanks, Rob. Your research and links are essential.

Joel on Software also has an excellent discussion thread on this fatal crash. Here is one of several comments that depicts how Joe Taxpayer is footing the bill for their own demise:

"I'm a DC resident and have seen WMATA (Washington Metro and Transit Authority) at work for many years and shoddy maintenance isn't surprising anyone.

"This is the same group that spends $1M/year on secret shopper programs, $5M to duplicate signs in Spanish, and gets revenue from fares, parking, gas tax, and direct subsidies from VA, MD, DC, and the Feds... and still can't balance a budget."

Melvin Toast said...

Set a fire under their fat, complacent asses 2T!! Saving money is one thing, and our recent national discussions on health care reform show the need for caution. But saving money BY SENDING WORK OUT OF THE COUNTRY--sensitive work that could cost lives--is criminal!

2Truthy said...

"But saving money BY SENDING WORK OUT OF THE COUNTRY--sensitive work that could cost lives--is criminal!" MT

That's right, Mel. Whoever is responsible for shoddy programming ought to have the book thrown at them.

Both of the trains in the Metro crash were running on "automatic mode", which means that the computerized system was supposed to determine if conditions on the track were safe for travel. The Metro trains are operated on automatic mode during rush hour, which is pretty scary since that's when they're packed.

Who is responsible for programming these systems and who is responsible for rail oversight?

There is NO federal agency that mandates technology standards for rapid transit systems. The standards are regulated by local jurisdictions.

In an automated system, a control room houses electronics that regulate the movement of trains. The control rooms send electronic signals to sensor-like devices located between the train tracks.

2Truthy said...


THERE IS NO FEDERAL There is NO federal agency that mandates technology standards for rapid transit systems
but there IS a Federal agency that legally allows corporations and gov't. agencies to transfer American jobs to India!!!!

Anonymous said...

To make a further clarification, Optram is not "Operational" software - i.e. software that controls train movements. Optram is a system used to view a railroad / transit's equipment (rail, bridges, tunnels, etc.) for inventory maintenance scheduling purposes. Also, it has nothing to do withthe rolling stock (i.e. the cars that go over the track).

Agree that the wholesale exporting of jobs will be the end of this economy and subsequently this country as we know it.

2Truthy said...

Thanks, Anon.

As investigators sort through the WMATA's suppliers of systems, tools and contractors, information like this is essential. Here is a link to a great engineering discussion thread (Joel on Software) regarding the crash: