A Metro official on Thursday said the transit agency has submitted a test plan to the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission, putting it one step closer to returning its newest railcars to service following a derailment last month.
Ian Jannetta, a Metro spokesperson, said while the safety commission considers the plan, the agency will start setting up railcars and inspection stations at Greenbelt to conduct the test, which he described as “an important milestone” toward bringing the railcars back.
Metro removed all of its 7000-series railcars, or about 60% of its fleet, for safety reasons last month after a National Transportation Safety Board investigation found that faulty wheel assemblies on those railcars caused a Blue Line train to derail Oct. 12. The train’s wheels shifted too far apart on their axles, a recurring problem with 7000-series railcars, the NTSB found.
The proposed test plan by Metro outlines inspecting wheelsets of the 7000-series railcars every eight days and suggests testing on two train sets, according to a letter by Theresa Impastato, Metro’s chief safety officer, submitted to the safety 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.
If the inspection interval checks out, Metro said it will work it into a final inspection plan to submit to the safety commission.
After the test is complete, the inspection plan will have to include proposed intervals for inspection and the processes for independent oversight of the inspection and for securing “non-conforming equipment.”
Reduced Metro service is expected to last through mid-November. Metro had 41 trains in service on Thursday, according to Mr. Jannetta. On Wednesday, 90% of trains arrived within 10 minutes of their schedules. The Red Line trains run every 15 minutes, the Green Line trains every 20 minutes and all other trains every 30 minutes.
Metro’s goal is to get 50 trains running on the tracks while its 7000-series railcars undergo inspections. The transit agency has been adding the older 2000-, 3000- and 6000-series railcars to help fill in the gaps from removing its newest railcars from service.
After inspecting all of its 748 7000-series railcars last month, Metro discovered 20 axles to be out of alignment, Mr. Jannetta said.
Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld has said it is too soon to know where the responsibility for the faulty wheel assemblies and the derailment lies, adding that the NTSB investigation must run its course.
Transit officials have not provided a timeline for when the investigation would wrap up and when the 7000-series railcars would be returned to the tracks.