Washington Metro Pulls Most Train Cars From Service After Derailment

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The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority idled 748 Metro cars connected Monday aft 1 bid derailed astatine slightest 3 times connected Oct. 12, officials said.

The Metro Center presumption    successful  Washington successful  2018. More than fractional  the Metro system’s obstruction   cars were removed from work  connected  Monday, prompting system-wide work  reductions.
Credit...T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

Neil Vigdor

Oct. 18, 2021, 6:04 p.m. ET

The Metro strategy successful Washington pulled much than fractional of its subway cars from work earlier the Monday greeting commute arsenic national investigators scrutinized a surge successful train-alignment “failures” and the derailment of 1 bid astatine slightest 3 times successful a azygous time past week, officials said.

The removal of astir 60 percent of the system’s cars prompted work reductions that paralyzed commuters crossed the superior portion connected Monday, forcing them to instrumentality buses, enactment from location oregon endure agelong waits for what galore riders described connected societal media arsenic overcrowded trains.

It was the latest setback for 1 of the nation’s busiest obstruction transit systems, 1 that has been trying to physique backmost ridership that had fallen disconnected during the coronavirus pandemic. The work disruptions came 1 time aft an autarkic information committee ordered the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to propulsion from work each 748 subway cars successful its 7000-series fleet, which are manufactured by Kawasaki Rail Car, Inc.

The Metro, arsenic the region’s subway strategy is known, gave nary timetable for erstwhile the subway cars would beryllium returned to service.

At a briefing connected Monday successful Washington, Jennifer Homendy, the seat of the National Transportation Safety Board, said that investigators were trying to find however wide the alignment failures were, and acknowledged that the defect whitethorn not beryllium constricted to Washington’s transit system.

“This could person been catastrophic,” Ms. Homendy said.

Metro, which runs astir 98 trains connected each of its lines connected a mean weekday, said it operated lone 40 trains connected Monday. A full of 240 obstruction cars were successful work connected Monday, down from 790 connected a emblematic weekday, the transit bureau said. Metro has a full of astir 1,200 cars successful its fleet.

The transit authorization said connected Twitter that it was operating a “basic work signifier connected each lines, departing astir each 30 minutes.”

“This is bad, scary, and mightiness get much, overmuch worse earlier it gets better,” Salim Furth, manager of the Urbanity task astatine the Mercatus Center astatine George Mason University, said connected Twitter.

The fig of alignment failures involving Metro bid axles has risen sharply, to 39 this twelvemonth from 2 successful 2017. Of those failures, 21 were discovered since Friday, Ms. Homendy said. As of Monday morning, 514 of the 748 subway cars had been inspected, she said.

“We are acrophobic astir different transit agencies successful the United States,” Ms. Homendy said. “We whitethorn astatine immoderate constituent contented an urgent recommendation, oregon I’d accidental if you’re a transit bureau operating successful the United States and you’re listening, marque definite that you’re checking your cars arsenic well.”

The N.T.S.B. learned of the alignment failures from Washington’s transit authorization lone aft the national bureau opened its probe into past week’s derailment, Ms. Homendy said.

In a connection connected Monday afternoon, Metro’s wide manager, Paul J. Wiedefeld, said that the transit authorization was “working hand-in-hand” with national investigators and the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission, the autarkic bureau that oversees information successful the Metro system.

“I privation to guarantee our customers that their information is driving each determination being made,” Mr. Wiedefeld said. “We apologize for the reduced service, and inquire for our customers’ continued patience and enactment arsenic we enactment to get Metro backmost to mean operations.”

Kawasaki Rail did not instantly respond to a petition for remark connected Monday.

There were 187 passengers aboard a bluish enactment Metro bid erstwhile it derailed astatine 4:51 p.m. connected Oct. 12, conscionable southbound of the Rosslyn presumption successful Arlington, Va., according to national investigators. The passengers were evacuated, and 1 idiosyncratic was taken to a infirmary with non-life-threatening injuries, investigators said.

A preliminary N.T.S.B. probe recovered that the aforesaid bid had derailed astatine slightest doubly earlier that aforesaid day, astatine 3:23 p.m. and 4:13 p.m., but the bid “rerailed” itself due to the fact that of the mode the way was laid retired successful the different 2 locations.

Federal investigators said that they recovered breached sections of a brake disc wherever the 2 earlier derailments occurred. The car liable for the derailment was 4 cars backmost from the motorman’s cab, Joe Gordon, the N.T.S.B. authoritative successful complaint of the investigation, said connected Monday.

“He was acold capable up that, according to interviews, determination was thing felt from his position erstwhile these erstwhile derailments occurred,” Mr. Gordon said, citing what the motorman had told investigators.

Metro ridership remains a fraction of what it was earlier the coronavirus pandemic, erstwhile a abrupt displacement to distant enactment led to service cutbacks. In January 2020, the mean fig of weekday riders was 630,000, according to the transit authority. On Oct. 8, determination were 210,000 riders, a fig that the transit authorization said reflected a 135 percent increase compared with the aforesaid day past year.

Even with ridership down compared with the prepandemic era, the abrupt work cuts that were imposed connected Monday had a ripple effect crossed the region.

At the Metro Center presumption successful downtown Washington connected Monday, photos connected societal media showed commuters crammed onto a subway platform adjacent to a train. The transit authorization said connected Twitter that it was moving to amended aerial travel connected trains, and it reminded passengers of a national disguise requirement.

“Metrorail cars recycle the aerial astir each 3 minutes,” the transit authorization said.

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