Metro: 7000-Series Trains Won’t Return Until Spring at Earliest

Metro will not resume the reinstatement of its 7000-series trains into service for at least 90 days, the agency announced last week.

The move will “allow Metro engineering and mechanical experts time to focus on root cause analysis and acquire technology to measure 7000-series wheelsets,” Metro said in a press release.

Metro said that in the meantime, it will accelerate efforts to restore 6000-series railcars to increase the availability of newer cars in the fleet and improve reliability for customers. The agency said its currently scheduled rail service will continue, with customer wait times averaging less than 10 minutes on all lines.

“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,” Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said in a statement. “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.”

This marks the first update on the 7000-series fleet’s status since Metro abruptly paused the previously-announced return of the trains in late December, ordering a daily series of wheel inspections instead of the weekly examinations initially approved by the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission. Metro originally pulled its entire 7000-series fleet from service last October to inspect its wheel assembly in connection with a train derailment on the Blue Line.

The 7000-series trains make up approximately 60 percent of its railcar fleet, Metro said last month. DCist reported last November that it takes a crew of three people six hours to inspect two 8-car trains.

“Our customers are always top of mind and none of the decisions we’ve made are easy, but they are critical to our ability to restore service,” Wiedefeld said. “We appreciate each and every customer who continues to ride Metro and recognize that many people depend on the service. We also thank our employees who are doing their best to meet rider expectations during a challenging time.”

Additionally, Metro said it will continue to work closely with its outside experts Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TTCI), as well as transparently engage oversight agencies the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission (WMSC) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on root cause analysis.

“Current service is averaging below 200,000 rail trips daily – less than a third of pre-pandemic demand due to the holidays, increased telework and the Omicron-fueled surge in Covid cases,” Metro said. “The average number of passengers per car today is about 45, far less than Metro’s established maximum standard of 120 passengers per car. Metrobus service is expected to resume weekday schedules in the coming days or weeks, as the current pandemic surge ebbs and more employees are available.”

Photo: © MelissaMN/Adobe Stock

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