WASHINGTON — The effects from the derailment are set to persist for a total of at least six months after the cars were taken out of service back in October.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) announced Thursday that their 7000-series Metro trains won’t be making a return until at least April. By then, it will have been over five months since the trains were initially pulled from service in October.
Metro General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul J. Wiedefeld said the cars will remain out of service so that Metro engineering and mechanical experts can focus on root cause analysis and getting technology to measure the 7000-series wheelsets.
Wiedefeld added that, during the coming 90-day period, Metro will work to restore 6000-series railcars in order to “increase the availability of newer cars in the fleet and improve reliability for customers.”
“Dedicated staff members are working with three outside groups to make sure the new railcars are safe to operate, and we concluded that their efforts to maintain and inspect trains – with maximum capacity getting just five trains back in service each day -- isn’t where we need to be focused,” Wiedefeld said.
Metro said that they’re continuing to operate currently scheduled rail service and that customer wait times should average less than 10 minutes on all lines.
They also added that current service is averaging below 200,000 rail trips daily – less than a third of pre-pandemic demand, with the causes determined to be the holidays, increased telework and the omicron-fueled surge in COVID cases.
WMATA also confirmed that Metrobus service is expected to resume weekday schedules in “the coming days or weeks.” The timing will hinge on the current pandemic surge, with service resuming based on when employees are available.
In a statement last week, WMATA said weekday bus service will be operating on Saturday levels and be cut to 75% of its normal schedule.
“Our customers are always top of mind and none of the decisions we’ve made are easy, but they are critical to our ability to restore service,” Wiedefeld said.
WMATA said Thursday that they had the highest number of COVID cases ever reported in the pandemic.
As of Jan. 4, official WMATA data showed 2,329 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported amongst employees since the pandemic began.
Of those cases, 2,157 had returned to work. The agency noted how the stats do not include anyone out due to close contact or exposure. In total, Metro has around 12,000 employees.