WMATA: No timeline to return 7000 series cars to service as inspections continue

Oct. 25, 2021
WMATA expects reduced Metrorail service to continue through Oct. 31 as the authority works to bring older models of railcars out of storage and into service.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) says reduced Metrorail service will continue at least through Oct. 31 with service every 15-10 minutes on the Red Line and every 20-30 minutes on other lines.

WMATA had to pull roughly 60 percent of its fleet after an Oct. 12 derailment involving its 7000-series railcars. The Washington Metrorail Safety Commission ordered WMATA to pull the cars by 5:00 a.m. Oct. 18. The 7000-series car involved in the derailment was found to have a fourth axle that was out of compliance with specifications for the 7000-series car wheel and axle assembly. However, this has not been named as the cause of the incident and the National Transportation Safety Board continues to investigate the cause of the derailment.

In a media briefing on Oct. 22, WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld did not provide a timeline for when the 7000-series railcars would return to service, stating several times the safety of the railcars would drive their return to service.

He did note the authority continues to work with Kawasaki, which manufactured the 7000-series railcars, to inspect every wheel on those cars. WMATA says all but 100 cars in the 7000-series fleet have been inspected. The 748 7000-series railcars’ return to service will be based on four elements:

  • Inspection frequency – WMATA had been inspecting each railcar at the industry standard interval of 90 days. New data will determine how often the authority checks wheel alignments;
  • Testing – New inspection protocols will need to be proven before they are implemented;
  • Car isolation – WMATA is developing enhanced process and mechanism to ensure that only cars that pass inspection are ready for service and returned to service; and
  • Remobilization – A logistics plan will be required to move equipment to the right locations where inspections will take place.

“We understand it has been a difficult week for people who depend on Metro in the region, and acknowledge the challenges our customers are experiencing,” said Wiedefeld. “We are working as quickly and safely as possible to inspect every wheel on the 7000-series railcars and it’s important to get that right.”

During the press briefing, Wiedefeld said his greatest focus is on getting “service back up in a safe manner for this region.”

WMATA is returning some 2000-series railcars to service, as well as some 6000-series railcars, which are undergoing maintenance repairs, to help alleviate the shortage caused by the pulling of the 7000-series fleet.

Last week, the WMATA Board of Directors hired outside consultants to serve as safety advisors to the board. During the Oct. 22 press briefing, WMATA Board Chair Paul Smedberg explained the board doesn’t currently have anyone with specific safety expertise and bringing in of the safety consultant was a move to make sure the board has the right information to analyze, is asking the right questions and, at the conclusion of the process, find ways to improve.

Smedberg also voiced the board’s confidence in Wiedefeld, WMATA Chief Safety Officer Theresa Impastato and “the entire team looking to return service safely.”

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.