Claims of a communication breakdown involving Metro’s sidelined railcars

As work continues to pin down the root cause of a wheelset problem that sidelined many of Metrorail’s cars last October, WTOP has learned of a communication breakdown between Metro and the railcar manufacturer.

Kawasaki Rail Car, which manufactured the long-sidelined 7000 series, was asked by Metro to press wheels onto axles with more force, following failed wheelset inspections in 2017.

Kawasaki said the updated cars started going into the system in 2018. The company said it asked Metro what it wanted to do with the nearly 500 railcars that had already been made under the old specification, and that, to this day, Metro has not responded.

It is unclear what the axle-pressure issue may be contributing to the latest wheelset problems, since the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission said it, along with the National Transportation Safety Board, is still looking for root causes.

But Kawasaki said of 7000-series wheelsets that have fallen out of tolerance, 48 happened under the original pressure specification, while three happened under the revised spec.

Metro declined to comment, as this relates to the ongoing National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the matter.

In a timeline provided to WTOP, Kawasaki states, “In more than 40 years of service in the United States, Kawasaki railcars have never derailed in service due to an issue attributable to Kawasaki.”

Metro plans to begin phasing 7000-series cars back into service this summer.

John Aaron

John Aaron is a news anchor and reporter for WTOP. After starting his professional broadcast career as an anchor and reporter for WGET and WGTY in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, he went on to spend several years in the world of sports media, working for Comcast SportsNet, MLB Network Radio, and WTOP.

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