Metrorail service delays to continue another week

Metro’s trains will continue to run on their current reduced schedule at least through Oct. 31, Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said in a briefing Friday.

That means trains every 15 to 20 minutes on the Red Line, and 20 to 30 minutes on all other lines.

“I also want to encourage customers to utilize Metro bus as an alternative where it makes sense for them,” Wiedefeld said.

He said transit agency officials “don’t yet have a timetable” for putting back into service the 7000 Series cars — more than half the fleet — that were taken out after a derailment last week.

“Please know we are working to restore full service on the system as quickly as possible,” the general manager said, “but will only do so when it is safe to do so.”

Wiedefeld said Metro is working with Kawasaki, the manufacturer of the 7000 Series cars, “to inspect every wheel in the 7000 Series rail cars,” and is “putting together a new inspection program that everyone feels comfortable with.”

There are 180 cars from the older 6000-series trains that may be brought back if they pass inspections. Currently only 22 of them are available for service.

He said the agency is also rolling out some older cars it has in storage in order to reduce wait times. A Metro spokesman said Friday afternoon that Metro has about 250 of the 2000, 3000 and 6000 Series rail cars available for service. Some of them “are in storage or are undergoing repairs,” and will need to be inspected and/or maintained before returning to service.

‘That should have been raised much sooner’

Wiedefeld said, “We’ll get to the bottom” of why Metro’s board and the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission weren’t told about a spike in 7000 Series wheel problems this year. The spike was reported to the NTSB during their investigation of the derailment.

“That should have been raised much sooner,” Wiedefeld said.

“I think we’re going to reserve judgment on that right now,” Board Chairman Paul Smedberg said when asked about the issue. “But … the board in general does have some concerns that, if we did see this uptick, that we weren’t informed. But again, we’ll move on together with the general manager and make sure that in the future things like this don’t happen again.”

Smedberg said he and the rest of the board were still behind the leadership team, including Wiedefeld: “We absolutely have confidence in Paul and his team working on this.”

Wiedefeld said National Transportation Safety Board rules prevented him from speaking about the root causes of the derailment.

The suspension of the bulk of Metro’s fleet was prompted when a Blue Line train car slipped off the tracks near Arlington National Cemetery on Oct. 12. The car had apparently derailed once and then re-connected with the rails by itself, before derailing a second time. Some passengers were trapped in a tunnel in a dark train car and had to be evacuated on foot.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2012 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He went to George Washington University as an undergraduate and is regularly surprised at the changes to the city since that faraway time.

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