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Washington subway system ordered to suspend some rail car use

Sports & GeneralOct 17, 2021 10:15PM ET
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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) was ordered to not use nearly 60% of its rail fleet Monday after a safety probe found defects similar to an issue in a recent derailment.

The subway system that services Washington, D.C. and parts of Maryland and Virginia said without those rail cars, it will "operate about 40 trains tomorrow – offering a basic service pattern on all lines of trains departing about every 30 minutes."

That schedule could result in some significant delays for rush-hour commuters. Washington schools told students in a tweet to prepare for major delays to and from school on Monday.

The suspension was prompted by an ongoing National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) probe into the Oct. 12 derailment of a Blue Line WMATA train between Rosslyn and Arlington Cemetery stations

The Washington Metrorail Safety Commission said it on Sunday had ordered the 7000-series trains removed from service no later than 5 a.m. Monday (0900 GMT) after the NTSB "identified safety concerns related to the spacing of wheels on 7000 Series railcar axles."

A spokesman for the Washington Metro Safety Commission confirmed the 7000-series cars were built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and its subsidiary New York-based Kawasaki Rail Car Inc, which delivered the first railcars to WMATA in January 2014.

The order requires removal of those 7000-series cars "from service until such time as Metrorail develops a plan to assess the cause and to provide for the detection and prevention of these wheel assembly anomalies."

The derailment of a 7000-series blue line train between the Rosslyn and Arlington Cemetery stations in Arlington did not injure any of the 187 passengers onboard, WMATA said.

The NTSB late Sunday said it will hold a media briefing Monday to provide an update on its investigation with chair Jennifer Homendy and Investigator-in-Charge Joe Gordon.

WMATA will later update the public "about service for the remainder of this week."

The Washington subway system is historically the second busiest in the United States, but thousands of U.S. government workers and others who normally commute daily into downtown Washington continue to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

WMATA says in August, the most recent data available, subway service was 26% pre-pandemic levels on weekdays and near 50% on weekends.

Washington subway system ordered to suspend some rail car use

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