WMATA to focus on root cause analysis before returning 7000-series cars to service

Jan. 14, 2022
The authority’s engineering and mechanical experts are working with TTCI, the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission and NTSB to determine why one of its cars derailed Oct. 12, 2021.

It will be around 90 days before Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) will resume the return of its 7000-series railcars to service. WMATA General Manager and CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld says the authority’s focus should be on determining the root cause of an Oct. 12, 2021, derailment and acquiring needed technology to measure the wheelsets.

“Dedicated staff members are working with three outside groups to make sure the new railcars are safe to operate, and we concluded that their efforts to maintain and inspect trains – with maximum capacity getting just five trains back in service each day – isn’t where we need to be focused,” Wiedefeld said. “We are going to redirect our efforts towards identifying and tackling the root cause of the derailment and take steps to better support more continuous wheel measurements by installing trackbed technology.”

WMATA will continue to operate its rail service, which it says carries average wait times of less than 10 minutes on all lines. The authority will continue its accelerated efforts to restore 6000-series cars during the 90-day period that will increase the availability of new cars and improve reliability. Pre-pandemic, WMATA carried around 120 passengers per car. However, the rail system is currently averaging 45 passengers per car, which it says is caused by increased telework following the surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant and the holidays.

The 7000-series railcars were originally pulled from service following an Oct. 12, 2021, derailment where a wheelset was found to be out of compliance with specifications.

WMATA continues to work with the National Transportation Safety Board as it continues its investigation into the probable cause of the derailment. The authority is also working with the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission, which will approve WMATA’s plan to bring the railcars back into service, as well as Transportation Technology Center, Inc., in Pueblo, Colo., which is aiding WMATA in its root cause analysis.

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.