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WMATA on schedule to restore 7000-series rail cars to service

WMATA's return-to-service plan includes new inspection procedures and trainings to guide WMATA staff to safety inspect and maintain the rail cars upon their return.
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The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority announced yesterday that it installed the first automated inspection system to test the 7000-series rail cars' wheelsets in real time, keeping the transit agency on track to return the vehicles to service in late summer.

Engineers will soon begin configuration, testing and commissioning of the system. WMATA's return-to-service plan includes new inspection procedures and trainings to guide WMATA staff to safely inspect and maintain the rail cars upon their return, WMATA officials said in a press release.

The Washington Metrorail Safety Commission reported yesterday that it had no technical objections to WMATA's plans. Both organizations worked together to develop the plan as required by the commission's Dec. 29, 2021, order.

WMSC is requiring WMATA to take multiple steps towards the goal of returning the fleet to service, including:

  • new and improved manual inspection tools;
  • new and improved procedures, including additional internal oversight and protections;
  • increased frequency of manual inspections, including an inspection prior to each day in passenger service;
  • adjusted criteria for wheelset failures;
  • new procedures to control the movement of rail cars and to ensure cars only leave rail yards when they meet WMATA's safety requirements as specified in the plan;
  • information technology updates to collect and validate data and provide improved controls on improper use of cars that have not met requirements;
  • new training on these safety improvements;
  • ensuring enough people are trained and enough tools are available to carry out the plan;
  • data analysis; and
  • new proactive use of specific data captured by 7000-series cars.

The agency suspended all of its 7000-series rail cars Oct. 18, 2021, after a derailment occurred on the Blue Line six days earlier. The vehicles represent nearly 60% of WMATA's entire rail-car fleet.

The cause of the derailment has not yet been identified and is currently under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. Researchers at MxV Rail are assisting the investigation by conducting spin and ultrasonic tests that look at vibration and wheel performance at various speeds and conditions. So far, the investigation has not found evidence of failures related to maintenance or manufacturing of the equipment.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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