Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has paused bringing on line additional 7000-series rapid transit cars, following an update to the cars’ service restoration plan.
WMATA earlier this month started a metered release of no more than 336 cars, allowing time for the agency to prepare the cars that have been in storage and to train rail maintenance workers on new inspection procedures; the move was approved by the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission (WMSC), and the cars were to be inspected every seven days.
On Oct. 18, WMATA sidelined all 748 of its 7000-series cars—built by Kawasaki Rail and comprising about 60% of the agency’s railcar fleet—to inspect wheel assemblies in connection with the Blue Line train derailment investigation. On Oct. 12, one wheelset on car 7200, the fourth of eight on train 407, derailed (see map below).
WMATA developed the cars’ return-to-service plan, including inspection intervals, “following extensive testing and data analysis,” the agency said.
“Although there are no new issues of concern,” WMATA reported on Dec. 23, “the Chief Safety Officer and Chief Operating Officer met with the Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (the independent consultant WMATA hired to help with its root cause analysis following the derailment), and [WMATA] officials concluded that moving to a nightly inspection of 7000-series railcars is the prudent course of action.”
“While I recognize the pause is unexpected, we are going to continuously evaluate data we are collecting to ensure that we are enhancing safety,” General Manager and CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld said. “I feel that requiring a daily inspection is the safest course until we know more and our experts have an opportunity to review the data we are collecting with the few [eight-car] trainsets now in operation.”
The National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) investigation of the derailment is ongoing; it reported on Dec. 1 that work will “focus on failure analysis of the wheelsets, evaluation of the response from rail traffic controllers, internal and external oversight of the WMATA system, and identification of similar wheelset issues on passenger railcars.”