Metro says it is temporarily pausing the return of its 7000 series rail cars this week to deal with a “data backlog” problem.
The announcement comes just a few weeks after Metro, under a plan approved its safety watchdog, began returning the rail cars to service. The 7000 series cars make up 60% of Metro’s total fleet and were pulled from the tracks last fall after a derailment, leading to significantly slower service across all lines for the past several months.
“We are withholding 7000 series trains from service for a couple of days this week while we adjust railcars for daily inspections,” Metro said in a tweet Wednesday. “This will prevent the data backlog we experienced last week and ensure we can ramp up to eight trains into service daily, in full compliance with our safety process. There will be no impact to service levels for customers.”
WTOP has requested more information about the problem from Metro.
Under the plan to bring a limited number of 7000 series railcars back, Metro has to perform daily inspections of the rail cars’ wheelsets to make sure they haven’t shifted too far apart, which was cited as the cause of the derailment on the Blue Line last Oct. 12.
Follow-up inspections revealed that for unknown reasons, the wheelsets on the 7000 series cars are prone to shifting apart, making them vulnerable to derailment.
Most recently, Metro began returning 7000 series cars to the tracks on June 16. The maximum limit of 7000 series trains allowed in service, under the approved plan, is eight trains — or 64 railcars.
According to information presented at a Washington Metrorail Safety Commission meeting last week, Metro has only returned the full eight cars to service twice since June 16.
Since the stepped-up inspections began last month, no rail cars have failed back-to-back measures, Metro says.
Anticipating crowds flocking to the National Mall for the fireworks on July 4, Metro warned customers they could wait up to an hour to board trains at the Smithsonian station.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Metro initially sought permission from the safety commission last month to run extra 7000 series trains on July 4 to handle expected crowds, but later withdrew the request. It’s not clear why Metro withdrew its request.
The shortage of rail cars has had a significant impact for riders across lines of the Metro system. Currently, trains on the Red Line run every 10 minutes. Trains on the Green and Yellow Lines run every 15 minutes. Riders on the Blue, Orange and Silver Lines have the longest waits — trains run every 20 minutes.
Metro is aiming to trains run every 15 minutes on those lines by the end of the summer using the 7000 series trains.