After a Metro train derailed and the agency removed all 7000-series railcars, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) revealed the affected train derailed at least three times total that day as well as repeated wheel issues with Metro trains since 2017.
Last Tuesday, Oct. 12 at 4:51 p.m., a Blue Line train derailed between the Rosslyn and Arlington Cemetery stations, according to NTSB. As part of the investigation into the incident, Metro removed all 7000-series trains from service Monday, which is 60% of its fleet.
As a result, all Metro lines now operate every 30 minutes and all trains have 6 cars.
187 passengers were on-board the train when it derailed. One person was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said during a press conference Monday. She said the derailment was the last of at least three known that day. The train re-railed itself after the other two known incidents. NTSB Investigator Joe Gordon said the train’s wheels moved outboard on their axle, which caused it to derail during switches.
Homendy said WMATA was aware of wheel assembly issues going back to 2017. She said Metro found two failures in 2017, two in 2018, four in 2019, five in 2020, and then 18 in 2021. That was before Friday, Homendy said, and NTSB inspections initiated that day uncovered an additional 21 failures totaling 39 failures this year, “which is significant.” She stressed that the numbers are preliminary because about 514 of the 748 7000-series rail cars have been inspected.
Homendy said NTSB was not notified of the previous failures prior to the current investigation. She said it is fortunate there were no fatalities or serious injuries.
“This could have resulted in a catastrophic event,” she said. Train wheels are checked every 90 days and fail inspection if they are too far in or out. She said the affected train was last inspected July 29 and was up for inspection Oct. 27.
Metro said the railcars were pulled out of an abundance of caution.
“We understand the impact this decision has on transportation for the DMV area (National Capital Region). We apologize for this reduction in service and the inconvenience this is causing our customers,” Metro said in a tweet Monday morning. Metro said it will release updates.
— Metro (@wmata) October 18, 2021