- The Washington Times - Friday, October 22, 2021

Metro said that reduced rail service will continue through at least the end of the month as it inspects a majority of its railcars for safety problems after a derailment last week.

The Washington-area transit system last week removed all of its 7000-series railcars, or about 60% of its fleet, for safety reasons after a National Transportation Safety Board investigation found that faulty wheel assemblies caused the derailment. The 7000 series is Metro’s newest railcar model.

Trains will continue to run every 15 to 20 minutes on the Red Line and every 30 to 40 minutes on all other lines through at least Oct. 31, the transit agency said. Silver Line service will continue to run only between Wiehle-Reston East and Federal Center SW. 

The longer waits mean passengers this week encountered longer waits, crowded platforms and packed trains.

“We understand it has been a difficult week for people who depend on Metro in the region, and acknowledge the challenges our customers are experiencing,” said Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld in a statement Friday. “We are working as quickly and safely as possible to inspect every wheel on the 7000-series railcars, and it’s important to get that right.”

The NTSB on Monday said faulty wheel assemblies caused the Oct. 12 derailment of the eight-car train on the Blue Line near the Arlington Cemetery station.

The Blue Line train had lifted off the tracks twice earlier that day before the third and final derailment, according to NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy. The train’s wheels shifted too far apart on their axles, an issue found in other 7000-series railcars, she said.

The train was carrying about 190 passengers when it derailed in a tunnel between Rosslyn and Arlington National Cemetery. One passenger was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, Ms. Homendy said.

Metro said it is putting more trains into service to help alleviate the railcar shortage caused by removing the 7000-series railcars. It said it is adding some 2000-series railcars from storage and 6000-series railcars that are being repaired. 

The transit agency said it is working with the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission and Kawasaki, the Japanese manufacturer of the 7000-series railcars, to conduct inspections. About 100 cars in the 7000-series fleet of 748 still need to be inspected, Metro said.

Other trains inspected by Metro had similar problems with the wheel assembly dating back to 2017. Preliminary inspections found two wheel assembly failures occurred in 2017, two in 2018, four in 2019, five in 2020 and 39 this year — a total of 52 failures. The reported failures increased from 18 to 39 after emergency inspections following last week’s derailment, the NTSB said Monday. 

Those numbers were released Monday after 514 of the 748 railcars had been inspected, so the number of failures could rise, Ms. Homendy said. 

Metro officials said they will not return their 7000-series railcars to service until they are fully inspected and deemed safe. 

The transit agency added it is developing new plans and processes for inspections, including deliberating how often to perform inspections and to check wheel alignment. The 7000-series railcars had been inspected every 90 days in alignment with industry standards. 

• Shen Wu Tan can be reached at stan@washingtontimes.com.

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