Metro to retain outside safety advisers after Blue Line derailment

More than a week after a train derailed on Metro’s Blue Line, Metro has announced it will be retaining outside safety advisers.

WMATA Board Chair Paul Smedberg said in a statement the “independent advisors will provide the Board with expert opinions, analysis, and recommendations on a full range of issues concerning the safety, operations and organizational accountability of Metro.”

In an emailed statement, Smedberg said that in previous years, some board members have had safety expertise, but “the Board has not had safety consultant support.”

Smedberg said areas focus areas for the group will include safety reporting, communications, inspections, roles and responsibilities, regulatory requirements, hazard identification, employee training, safety performance indicators and targets and procurement.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is leading the investigation into last week’s derailment. They released their initial findings revealing that the train went off the track three times on the day of the derailment because the wheels shifted too far apart on their axles.

The first two times the wheels drifted off the tracks, they corrected themselves before causing a larger issue. The third time saw Train 407 derail in a tunnel between Rosslyn and Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

The D.C. Metrorail Safety Commission, which enforces safety practices for the Metro system, ordered all 7000 series trains out of service this week, which is around 60% of Metro’s fleet.

The change has already lead to significant delays and crowded trains.

“Our riders have had their commutes completely re-arranged by this incident,” Metro’s largest union Amalgamated Transit Union 689 said in a statement Wednesday, adding that it stands by pulling the trains out of service because it “prioritized safety.”

The union said that it is involved in the investigation process and is following closely, and its Safety Officer for Maintenance and Construction is part of the NTSB’s collaborative group, which includes federal, regional and business partners, as well as Metro.

“We aren’t just in contact with NTSB, but have an active role in ensuring that all future transit workers and riders are safe,” the union said.

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Shayna Estulin

Shayna Estulin is an anchor/reporter for WTOP. She started her career in New York City as a local TV reporter and has since covered foreign affairs and national politics as a Washington correspondent. She also anchored a nightly news show for an international network.

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