‘Extreme disappointment’ – Metro revises plan to bring back 7000 series cars; Silver Line Delayed

'Extreme disappointment' - Metro revises plan to bring back 7000 series cars;  Silver Line Delayed

Metro is now saying 7000 series cars that have been sidelined since a derailment last fall are not expected to return to service until this summer at the earliest, under a plan outlined Thursday by the managing director and CEO of Metro, Paul Wiedefeld.

Metro is now saying 7000 series cars that have been sidelined since a derailment last fall are not expected to return to service until this summer at the earliest, under a plan outlined Thursday by the managing director and CEO of Metro, Paul Wiedefeld.

Wiedefeld presented the proposed schedule at a Metro board meeting on Thursday, but warned there was no short-term fix for the beleaguered 7000-series cars, which represent more than the half of Metro’s fleet, and that the transit agency’s proposed schedule requires approval from the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission.

Metro has yet to submit the plan to the security watchdog.

In the short term, Metro plans to use older 6000 series cars, which were also taken out of service a year before the derailment after two previous incidents in which cars became uncoupled.

By May, Metro hopes to return another 50 6000-series cars to service, which would allow green and yellow line trains to run every 15 minutes.

Under the current limited service, Red Line trains run every 10 minutes; all other lines run every 20 minutes.

Wiedefeld said overcrowding has been seen on the green and yellow lines as more riders return to the system amid a broader return to workplaces as the COVID-19 pandemic s attenuates.

At the same time, Metro said it would seek to work with the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission on a plan to conduct daily inspections of 7000-series train cars, which make up 60% of Metro’s fleet, and to gradually begin to restore them. service this summer.

If the 7000-series cars are allowed back into service, service on the blue, orange and silver lines would also improve to 15 minutes by the end of the summer, Wiedefeld said.

Metro’s plans required safety commission approval.

Last fall, the safety commission ordered the 7000 series out of service following the derailment of a Blue Line train in a tunnel near Arlington National Cemetery. The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the derailment, blamed issues with wheelsets on the new cars that spread too far apart on their axles.

Metro said it plans to use new digital gauges to manually inspect 7000-series axles every day. A longer-term plan is to install automated wayside inspection stations, which would take measurements as trains pass to automatically identify any problems.

Both approaches require an OK from the safety commission. Wiedefeld and Metro’s board of directors wrote a letter Thursday to safety commission leaders outlining the proposed timelines.

“The restoration of the 7000 series cars is essential for our ability to improve frequencies to meet the expected ridership demand with post-pandemic travel to workplaces… we hope that WMSC will work side by side with our staff Safety and Metrorail to ensure that any issues of concern to WMSC will be satisfactorily addressed throughout the process to meet optimal timelines for the safe delivery of services to customers,” the letter reads.

Speaking to reporters after the board meeting, board chairman Paul Smedberg said safety commission staff are already working with Metro staff on the ground. “We need them to do all the approvals possible so that we can, in fact, check things off the list,” he said.

There’s been a bit of a back-and-forth between Metro and the safety commission about getting the 7000-series trains back into service.

In December, the safety commission approved a plan to gradually get the 7000-series trains back on the tracks, but then ordered Metro two weeks later to pull the 7000-series cars again after the commission had discovered that Metro was putting trains back into service that had failed initial inspection. plan.

In response to Metro’s board letter on Thursday, safety commission spokesman Max Smith said the commission “remains committed to fulfilling its safety oversight responsibilities in a timely manner.” the most opportune and most appropriate to ensure safety”, but that Metro did not submit a plan to the safety commission. to get 7000 Series trains back on track safely.

The statement went on to say, “WMATA has not provided us with a return to service plan for the 7000 series, as required and described in our order. As with Metrorail’s initial return to service plan which was accepted in December, the WMSC has directed Metrorail to continuously share information during the return to service planning process to ensure that any issues are identified and resolved as soon as possible. The WMSC has always provided productive and prompt feedback in open discussions, and will continue to do so. The WMSC work schedule is entirely dependent on Metrorail’s sharing of information and the progress of its work.

So far, more than five months after the derailment, Wiedefeld told the board that no root cause for the wheel issues had been identified.

“Although the cause appears to be a combination of factors, we don’t expect a short-term fix,” Wiedefeld said.

The plan to restore the 7000 series car and gradually restore service comes as more drivers return to the system. On Tuesday, Metro said it had logged about 245,000 rides on the system – the highest ridership since the pandemic began. Overall, however, ridership is only 30% of pre-pandemic levels.

Wiedefeld made his remarks shortly before the Metro Board approved a $4.5 billion budget for fiscal year 2023, which begins in July. Measures in the budget include $2 weekend rail fares, $2 late-night rail fares and free bus-to-rail transfers.

“Forbidden Issues” Delay Silver Line Extension

The chief executive also shared his “extreme disappointment” as he confirmed that the long-delayed Silver Line extension to Dulles International Airport is set to be pushed back once again – and may not even happen by now. summer.

Earlier this year, it was estimated that the 11.4-mile, six-station Phase 2 expansion would open in the spring. However, Weidefeld said there are three “forbidden issues” that have yet to be resolved.

“We won’t be cutting a ribbon together on the Silver Line this spring,” Wiedefeld told the board.

One is an occupancy certification for the buildings that make up the new stations, which Wiedefeld says is the responsibility of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

“It’s something we have no control over,” Wiedefeld said.

Another is a problem with pieces of equipment called “orange boots”, where two power cables come together. Problems with similar equipment elsewhere in the system were cited during the fatal 2015 L’Enfant Plaza smoke incident, Wiedefeld said.

Pressed to give a realistic timetable for the opening of the Silver Line extension, Wiedefeld said: “I would like to give you a date. I can not.

He said there was still “significant work” to be done by the airport authority and the safety commission had to give final approval.

Wiedefeld added: “It’s a summer date. If things aren’t going well, if the airport can’t do the job, that pushes it further.

Metro board chairman Paul Smedberg said he was “deeply appalled” by the delay.

Wiedefeld, who took over running the metro system in 2015, is retiring this summer.