Metrorail says limited service will last for rest of 2021

Metrorail will spend the rest of the year in a reduced service pattern, with no timeline established after October’s Blue Line derailment.

The public transit operator again extended its service reductions Monday, meaning riders can expect longer wait times on all lines through the holiday season with the entire 7000 Series sidelined for inspection and 6000 Series cars still awaiting parts amid a global supply-chain crunch.

“This is a monumental undertaking that is being performed on parallel tracks to ensure that we have as little down time as possible between testing and remobilizing the fleet,” Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said in a news release.

“We are intentionally not setting deadlines so that safety and good data drive our decisions, but we are mindful that customers want the best service we can provide as soon as we can deliver it, and we are committed to building back up in phases.”

Metro continues to cut the number of trains operating on a line at any given time, with a majority of its rolling stock still in storage. Trains are running every 12 minutes on the Red Line, every 20 minutes on the Green and Yellow lines, and every 30 minutes on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines.

Despite supply chain constraints, Wiedefeld anticipates at least some of Metro’s 6000 Series cars will roll out again in December, after being out of service since November 2020, and alleviate delays caused by the sidelining of the system’s modern 7000 Series to investigate defective wheel assemblies.

Metro said engineers, safety and operations teams are preparing the 7000 Series for its eventual return to service.

But the transit provider said it has more hurdles to pass before full service can be restored, and that its January outlook for the 7000 Series will depend on the completion of new test and restoration plans that aim to prevent a repeat of the Oct. 12 incident that stranded Blue Line passengers in a dark tunnel near Arlington Cemetery station.

After the derailing, the National Transportation Safety Board revealed that the Kawasaki-made 7000-series trains had been suffering an escalating series of incidents due to a design flaw that caused the wheels to spread too wide on the axles, allowing the carriage to slip off the tracks. The issue had been apparent to WMATA since 2017, but neither NTSB nor the WMATA board had been informed, said NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy.

The incident remains under investigation by the NTSB.

Overall rider numbers remain at about 30% of pre-pandemic levels but are expected to increase steadily as offices reopen and tourists return to Washington.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Alejandro Alvarez

Alejandro Alvarez joined WTOP as a digital journalist and editor in June 2018. He is a reporter and photographer focusing on politics, political activism and international affairs.

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