CommunityWilliam J. Ford

Metro’s Post-Derailment Return to Normal Remains Uncertain

Riders Should Expect 40-Minute Delays, Transit Agency Says

Metrorail riders will experience another week of limited service as federal investigators continue their probe of a train derailment earlier this month.

The National Transportation Safety Board continues an ongoing inspection of the 7000-series cars after one of them derailed along the Blue Line Oct. 12 near the Arlington Cemetery Metrorail station in Northern Virginia.

“It’s been a difficult week for the people who depend on Metro in the region, for sure,” Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said in his first public comments since the derailment on Oct. 22. “We are working to restore full service on the system as quickly as possible but will only do so when it is safe.”

Because the 7000-series rail cars account for 60 percent of Metrorail service, passengers should anticipate wait times of 15 to 20 minutes for Red Line trains and between 30 to 40 minutes for all other lines. Officials expect the temporary delays to remain in effect through Sunday, Oct. 31.

Wiedefeld said the agency continues work on bringing the 2000-series and 6000-series trains to the system but must continue conducting wheel inspections and other work. Metro uses the more modern 7000 series which has eight instead of six cars per train.

When asked during the press briefing Friday about additional Metrobus service demand, Wiedefeld said the agency already remains near capacity at 97 percent, which sits at pre-pandemic service.

Metro officials declined to comment on the train derailment as NTSB continues to inspect wheels on 7000-series cars which the agency has assessed as the reason for the derailment. No one suffered injuries in the derailment but the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission, the independent agency created by Congress, pulled all 748 of the 7000-series trains Sunday.

The Federal Transit Administration marks as the third agency participating in the derailment investigation. Kawasaki Rail Car of Yonkers, N.Y., manufactures the 7000-series cars.

Wiedefeld said the 7000 series are inspected every 90 days under an industry standard. If any defects are found in the wheels and other equipment in each car, they are replaced under warranty.

Metro board of directors chair Paul Smedberg released a statement Wednesday that the board plans to retain outside consultants to serve as safety advisors.

Unlike previous boards, he said no current board members have extensive safety knowledge and work with Wiedefeld and Metro’s Chief Safety Officer Theresa Impastato. He expressed “confidence” in Metro’s leadership team.

“We wanted to make sure we have advisors as we work through this . . . We have people on board that can help us analyze the information, make sure we’re asking the right questions,” Smedberg said. “One of our primary goals is safety oversight. We’ve got to make sure we get this right.”

Smedberg, who said the board didn’t know about the wheel problems, wants to “reserve judgement” until all the facts surface but added “the board in general does have some concerns . . . and [wants to] make sure in the future things like this don’t happen again.”

U.S. Senate Democrats Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin of Maryland and Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia wrote a letter to Wiedefeld on Thursday, Oct. 21 urging transparency during the investigation.

“Residents of the National Capital Region deserve a safe, reliable and well-functioning system,” the senators wrote. “Please know that we will be eager to hear from you in a timely manner on your plans to address the specific safety concern associated with the [Oct. 12] derailment, to restore public confidence in your organization and to embed safety more effectively into your organization culture –a repeated focus of our discussions with you since you took the helm of WMATA six years ago.”

William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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