The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has issued a Safety Advisory requiring State Safety Oversight Agencies (SSOA) to report “out-of-tolerance wheel gauges” on all rail transit rolling stock in revenue service, and recommending fleet-wide inspections of wheel gauges at public transportation systems in their jurisdictions.
The move, announced in the Federal Register on Nov. 1 (download below), was prompted by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) derailment on Oct. 12.
WMATA car 7200, one of eight on train 407, derailed on the Blue Line between the Rosslyn and Arlington Cemetery stations. As part of the investigation, all 748 7000-series rapid transit cars were sidelined on Oct. 18 by Washington Metrorail Safety Commission (WMSC) order.
According to WMSC:
• “The National Transportation Safety Board [NTSB] investigation … found that the fourth axle of Railcar 7200 was out of compliance with the 7000 Series specifications for the wheel and axle assembly.
• “Railcar inspections conducted as part of the derailment investigation have found similar defects in 7000 Series railcars that were not involved in the October 12 accident.
• “The prevalence of this defect throughout the 7000 Series railcar fleet is unknown and an inspection interval that is adequate to detect this defect before a safety event occurs has not been determined.”
The 7000-series cars, built by Kawasaki Rail, started entering revenue service in 2015. They represent nearly 60% of WMATA’s approximately 1,200-car fleet.
NTSB—which is investigating the derailment with FTA, WMSC, WMATA and the Amalgamated Transit Union—is “focusing on the pressed wheel/axle interface and widening wheel gauge on wheels and axles,” FTA reported in the Federal Register.
In Safety Advisory 21—1, FTA is requiring SSOAs to submit by Dec. 1 the following fleet information for each “rail fixed guideway public transportation system” (RTA) in their jurisdiction:
• “Total fleet size, by mode.
• “Wheel gauge inspection protocols (specifically, the routine periodicity of inspections), by mode.
• “The number of vehicles that failed wheel gauge tolerance levels, based on the RTA’s internal and approved procedures, from October 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021, by mode.”
According to FTA, SSOAs are responsible for “overseeing the safety” of the RTAs within their state in accordance with 49 CFR part 674, and each SSOA “has investigative and enforcement authority with respect to the safety of all RTAs within their state (§ 674.13(a)(5)).”
FTA reported that it “advises” the SSOAs to direct each RTA to conduct a “wheel gauge inspection of its rail transit fleet in revenue service, which may include inspections conducted on or after October 1, 2021.” By Jan. 3, 2022, SSOAs “should submit to FTA, for the rail transit fleet in revenue service at each RTA in its jurisdiction,” the following:
• “The time frame during which these inspections were conducted (starting no earlier than October 1, 2021).
• “The total number of revenue service vehicles inspected.
• “The total number of revenue service vehicles that failed wheel gauge tolerance levels based on the RTA’s internal and approved procedures, by mode.”
According to FTA, equipment subject to Federal Railroad Administration safety oversight is excluded.