The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority said it has a fix planned for Metro’s beleaguered 7000-series trains, but it’s costly in terms of money and time.
The transit agency will spend $55 million and three years repressing all 5,984 wheels on the rail cars, according to a Tuesday announcement.
The news is the result of the National Transportation Safety Board releasing technical data from an investigation into the train derailment near Arlington Cemetery in October 2021.
“We appreciate the NTSB making the technical reports available so that we can develop our plan to begin repressing wheels on these trains at a higher standard, including the fit onto the axles,” Chief Operations Officer Brian Dwyer said in a news release.
“We are preparing the technical documents and training plan, while we collaboratively advance the next version of our return to service plan for approval by the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission.”
The key issue, according to WMATA, is a report that the wheels on the trains could shift on their axles when they weren’t supposed to do so. Or, in technical terms from the release, there can be a “microslip due to reduction in contact pressure.”
“Metro’s internal and external engineering experts agree that an increase to the fit and press tonnage used to mount rail wheels onto axles,” the release said.
In dramatically simpler terms: The wheels need to be put on railcar axles at a higher pressure.
WMATA’s preliminary cost and time estimate to get the 7000-series back on track, figuratively and literally, is $55 million and 36 months to repress all the wheels for 748 railcars and their 2,992 axles.
“We thank our customers for their patience and want them to know that the good news is we will be able to fix about 20 cars a month to safely build up more trains and restore the safe, frequent and reliable service the region needs,” Dwyer said.
WMATA’s Chief of Safety and Readiness Theresa Impastato said the changes need to be “safe and deliberate.”
“We will take the time needed to get this right because every single rail car must undergo a rigorous process to be ready to serve our customers and support our employees,” she said.
Featured photo courtesy WMATA
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