Metro said Monday that riders should expect reduced rail services through the end of the year.
Red Line trains are running about every 12 minutes, Green and Yellow line trains every 20 minutes, and all other trains every 24 minutes, according to Metro spokesperson Sherri Ly.
Nearly 75% of subway stations, many of which are serviced by several rail lines, have trains arriving at least every 10 to 12 minutes, the regional transit agency said in a statement.
Metro said it has not set a deadline to return all of its 7000-series railcars to service and is waiting for parts for the older 6000-series railcars due to global supply chain challenges.
“As we get more parts, we will return more of the 6000-series railcars to service for our customers during December,” Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld said. “While we know service is not as frequent as customers would prefer, we will add each train as it becomes available to help incrementally improve service reliability and frequency.”
Metro removed all 748 of its 7000-series railcars last month after a National Transportation Safety Board investigation found that faulty wheel assemblies on the railcars caused a Blue Line train to derail Oct. 12 near the Arlington Cemetery station.
The train’s wheels shifted too far apart on their axles, a recurring problem with the railcars, the NTSB found.
In total, Metro discovered 20 axles to be out of alignment after inspecting all of its 7000-series railcars, according to agency spokesperson Ian Jannetta.
To get the railcars back on the tracks, Metro must test to confirm that the new inspection intervals are enough to safely return the trains to passenger service.
The transit agency said testing is ongoing this month.
It added that engineers and other staff are readying plans to reposition the 7000-series railcars and return them to service.
However, the railcars that have been in storage will need to be inspected more often once they are on the tracks.
The Washington Metrorail Safety Commission earlier this month approved Metro’s plan to test the railcars, a step required to get the cars back on the tracks. The railcars make up about 60% of Metro’s fleet.
The proposed test plan outlines inspecting wheelsets of the railcars every eight days and suggests testing on two train sets, according to a letter by Metro Chief Safety Officer Theresa Impastato to the commission.
The transit agency estimated that a period of 10 days would represent the “reasonable worst-case wheel movement rate” and, therefore, proposed to test the train sets for no less than 12 days.
“The purpose of the testing is to gather data and determine the appropriate inspection intervals necessary to safely return the 7000-series railcars to passenger service,” said Ms. Ly.
Around the holidays, Metro said it usually sees fewer passengers and is experiencing about 70% fewer riders on average weekdays as the pandemic drags on.
Rush-hour trains typically carried about 100 to 120 passengers per car at their busiest points before the pandemic, Metro said. Trains are carrying an average of about 50 to 80 passengers per car these days.
Metro’s rail service next year will depend on the success of its test, restoration and operational plans for the 7000-series railcars. The transit agency said it expects to update its service plans before the end of this year.
Metro also is working on the launch of the Silver Line phase two service. Phase two includes extending rail service to Reston, Herndon and eastern Loudoun County and giving riders direct access to Washington Dulles International Airport, according to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
The NTSB said its investigation into the 7000-series railcars is ongoing. NTSB spokesperson Jennifer Gabris said the agency has collected evidence from Metro for metallurgical examinations at its materials laboratory. Investigators also are continuing to conduct interviews and review requested materials.