Audit reveals notable flaws in Metro’s safety, maintenance practices for railcars

An audit of Metro’s railcars has found that the transit system has some significant lapses in how it carries out its safety and maintenance procedures.

The Washington Metrorail Safety Commission, which conducted the audit, said that Metro didn’t follow its own safety certification processes for the 6000 Series rehabilitation and overhaul project.

The audit also said Metro didn’t bother to follow other steps, created outside of Metro’s intended safety certification process, that it said were being used for its railcar rehabilitation.

The audit pointed to the two 6000 Series train pull-aparts involving Red Line trains last fall as prime examples of the importance of safety certifications.

The transit system is also developing a similar rehabilitation project for the 7000 Series cars, but is doing so without full coordination with its Safety Department, the audit said.

Problems with maintenance and the definition of roles are pervasive, according to the audit: Metro lacks a sound process to make sure mechanics and engineers are trained to handle their assigned tasks, and the responsibilities of the incident investigation team are not clearly defined.

Nor does WMATA have adequate practices for the railcar maintenance plans, or clearly define how to use engineering documents or how to receive documentation, parts and tools from manufacturers, the audit said.

Metro doesn’t follow a standard process to address wheels out-of-round — a problem that causes vibrations and bouncing, and contributes to infrastructure damage.

The audit recommends Metro:

  • Install cameras and audio recording devices on railcars to improve oversight, efficiency testing and safety investigations;
  • Update procedures to ensure that 7000 Series railcar part numbers are consistently documented in each work order;
  • Make sure job descriptions are updated more regularly, since some hadn’t been reviewed in more than 20 years.

You can read the whole audit on the safety commission’s website.

Matthew Delaney

Matt Delaney is a digital web writer/editor who joined WTOP in 2020.

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