Metro pauses return of 7000-series railcars out of ‘an abundance of caution’

Metro paused the return of additional 7000-series railcars on Thursday out of what it said was an abundance of caution.

The move comes after the subway system began to gradually return some 7000-series train cars to service late last week after they were ordered off the tracks in October, following an investigation into a derailment on the Blue Line that revealed a wheel defect.

In announcing the pause, Metro General Manager and CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld said he was ordering a new regime of daily 7000-series inspections.

In an email, a Metro spokesman said the pause won’t have an impact on current service, and that the number of railcars available won’t change.

Wiedefeld said that although there were no new issues of concern, the system’s chief safety officer and chief operating officer met with its independent consultant Transportation Technology Center Inc. “and Metro officials concluded in an abundance of caution that moving to a nightly inspection of 7000-series railcars is the prudent course of action,” according to a news release.

“While I recognize the pause is unexpected, we are going to continuously evaluate data we are collecting to ensure that we are enhancing safety,” Wiedefeld said. “I feel that requiring a daily inspection is the safest course until we know more and … have an opportunity to review the data we are collecting with the few trainsets now in operation.”

The 7000-series comprised the majority of Metro’s fleet and have been out of service since a design flaw was uncovered that causes the wheels to spread too wide on the axles, allowing the carriage to slip off the tracks.

The resulting reduction in service has led to train delays that Metro says will last into the new year.

Metro said it notified National Transportation Safety Board and Washington Metrorail Safety Commission on Thursday afternoon of the updates to its 7000-series restoration plan.

In a statement, the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission said: “The WMSC appreciates Metrorail’s approach to further increasing inspection frequencies. As always, we remain in close and frequent contact with Metrorail.”

WTOP’s Megan Cloherty contributed to this report.

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Anna Gawel

Anna Gawel joined WTOP in 2020 and works in both the radio and digital departments. Anna Gawel has spent much of her career as the managing editor of The Washington Diplomat, which has been the flagship publication of D.C.’s diplomatic community for over 25 years.

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