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Rail News: Maintenance Of Way

WMATA beefs up track inspection after derailment

Photo: WMATA

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) General Manager and Chief Executive Office Paul Wiedefeld yesterday outlined additional track-related safety actions the agency has taken following last month's derailment on the Silver Line.

After the derailment, Wiedefeld ordered rail maintenance supervisors and track engineers to conduct a new round of inspections for all interlockings. During those inspections, staff identified several interlockings that require work, WMATA officials said in a press release.

As a result, WMATA's seventh "safety surge" includes a complete shutdown this weekend between the Grosvenor-Strathmore Station in North Bethesda, Md., and the Shady Grove Station in Derwood, Md. The agency is performing 15 repair "surges" throughout its rail system as part of the SafeTrack accelerated maintenance plan.

"Safety trumps service, now more than ever at [WMATA]," said Wiedefeld.

The track maintenance team is reviewing the remaining SafeTrack schedule and will consider additional weekend shutdowns during the remaining safety surges to address other issues uncovered by the latest inspections.

In addition, WMATA this month awarded a contract to outside experts to rewrite the agency's track inspection manual. Next month, trainers from the University of Tennessee's Center of Transportation Research will visit the agency to conduct two weeks of intensive training for track inspectors.

The training is aimed at improving inspectors' ability to identify and categorize track defects, WMATA officials said.

Earlier this week, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) issued a safety directive requiring WMATA to complete 12 actions to correct track integrity deficiencies in its rail system. The FTA identified deficiencies in WMATA's track inspection manual, track quality oversight and supervision, and track construction and maintenance.

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