WASHINGTON — Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-Washington, D.C.) told WUSA 9 on Tuesday that National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) inspections have found an additional 21 Metro train cars with similar wheel problems as the one that derailed along the Blue Line near Arlington National Cemetery last week.
Norton met with NTSB members on Tuesday. They told her that 514 of WMATA's 748 7000 series train cars had been inspected.
The investigation comes after a Blue Line train derailed last week. While no one was injured, it left almost 200 passengers stranded in the dark as they waited to be evacuated by emergency crews.
While investigating the derailment, NTSB found that an axle of the railcar that derailed was "out of compliance with the 7000 Series specifications for the wheel and axle assembly," according to an order issued by the Washington Metro Safety Commission (WMSC).
The D.C. Metrorail Safety Commission later ordered Metro to pull nearly 60% of its rail fleet from service Monday after its safety oversight board found a recurring problem with the axles on the Metro's newest railcars, the agency said.
The fallout from the investigation has led to frustrating service disruptions for Metro customers, with Red Line trains running every 15 minutes and all other lines running every 30 minutes this week as a result of the reduced fleet.
On Tuesday, Norton told WUSA9 that she hoped to get answers from transportation leaders by calling for a committee hearing with WMATA and the NTSB.
"The derailment couldn’t have come at a worse time when people are just getting back to work," she said. "We need to hear from the actors to know why actions weren’t taken before we put out of service 60% of the trains.”
Norton expressed concern after the NTSB said it found evidence that the Blue Line rail car derailed and rerailed at least twice before it finally got stuck in a tunnel near Arlington National Cemetery. Investigators believe there could have been more derailments on the days leading up to the incident.
The agency added that WMATA was made aware of about 52 failures of the 7000 series railcars since 2017, with 39 prior issues this year alone.
"WMATA should have known that, at some point, this could become a catastrophic event," Norton said. "I am determined to get to the bottom of this. It looks as if WMATA wasn’t sufficiently concerned because no catastrophic event occurred.”
Norton's call for a hearing comes as riders continue to experience long wait times and big changes to their commute.
On Tuesday, Uber reported "an unplanned increase in demand" led to higher prices for riders this week.
The rideshare company said it saw a significant increase in demand on Monday morning but rides were "not as pronounced" on Tuesday.
"We are working on getting more drivers on the road, including by making them aware of the increased demand," a company statement read. "We fully support WMATA's efforts to restore safe, full service to the Metrorail system. In the interim, we are glad to support commuters in need of transportation during this time."
In a statement later in the day, WMATA reminded customers to expect possible delays as the derailment investigation and train car inspections continue.
"While Metro aims to provide service consistent with the announced basic service plan through the rest of the week, customers should anticipate trains every 15-20 minutes on the Red Line and every 30-40 minutes on all other lines to account for any unplanned disruptions," a statement posted to the website read. "There is currently no capacity to fill unforeseen gaps, which will result in longer wait times. Crews are working as quickly as possible to put more trains into service."