Metro will keep outside consultants as safety advisors after the train derailed last week

The Washington, D.C. District Transportation Authority said on Wednesday it will retain outside consultants to advise its board of directors on safety issues after a Blue Line train derailed last week.

Paul C. Smedberg, Chairman of the WMATA Board of Directors, said in a statement.

He added that focus areas will include safety reporting, communications, inspections, roles and responsibilities, regulatory requirements, risk identification, staff training, safety performance indicators/targets, and procurement.

The National Transportation Safety Board on Monday blamed a Blue Line metro train derailment on October 12 on its faulty set of wheels, a recurring problem that federal investigators have noted for years.

The Blue Line had derailed twice on the same day before its third and final derailment, according to NTSB chief Jennifer Homedy. She said the train’s wheels moved too far apart on their axles, a problem found on other 7000 series rail cars.

Ms Homendi said there were no deaths or serious injuries during any of these derailments, but that “the potential for fatalities and serious injuries was significant”.

The Blue Line was carrying about 190 passengers when it derailed on Oct. 12 in a tunnel between Rosslyn and Arlington National Cemetery. Ms Homendi said one passenger was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, noting that the train had eight Series 7000 coaches.

On Monday, Metro grounded all 7000 series rail cars, nearly 60% of its rail fleet, and only operated about 40 trains while investigators were checking the trains.

The reduced Metrorail service is expected to run until at least Sunday as officials continue to investigate the October 12 lane deviation. Metro officials said trains are expected to run every 15 minutes on the Red Line and every 30 minutes for all other lines. Silver Line trains are scheduled to operate only between Wiehle-Reston East and Federal Center SW.

Other trains inspected by Metro had similar problems with the wheel assembly dating back to 2017. Initial inspections found there were two-wheel assembly failures in 2017, two in 2018, four in 2019, and five in 2020. And 39 this year – a total of 52 failures so far. Reported failures increased from 18 to 39 after emergency inspections after the Blue Line was derailed last week.

Ms. Homendi said the numbers were preliminary and could go up. Only 514 railway cars of the 748 train cars that are part of the 7000 series were inspected as of Monday.

Metro officials have said they will not return their 7000 Series cars to service until they have been further checked and deemed safe.

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