WASHINGTON — Metro was cleared Friday to begin Phase 3 of its Return to Service plan for 7000-series trains.
What does that mean exactly? Simply that it will allow Metro to move from a four-day wheel inspection interval to a seven-day wheel inspection interval.
Does that mean more trains and better service? Only time will tell, but if trains are inspected less often, that should mean more trains are in service because they're not out for inspection so frequently.
This moves comes more than a year after Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) pulled its 7000-series trains from service.
This all dates back to October of 2021, when the NTSB found defects in several of the 7000 series railcars while investigating the derailment of a Blue Line railcar (train 407). During that incident on Oct. 12, almost 200 people were safely evacuated from a derailed Metro Blue Line train near Arlington Cemetery.
Immediately after, the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission (WMSC) had WMATA pull all of its 7000-series cars from the tracks. This forced Metro to reduce service across all lines. This led to longer waits and congestion on trains.
In October 2022, the transit agency finally got the go-ahead to start putting the 7000-series cars back into service.
The process has been a contentious one, with the two agencies sparring over what a return to service would look like.
Both of Virginia's U.S. Senators were furious that a skirmish between Metro and the safety commission could have delayed the launch of the Silver Line extension.
"My patience is gone. The riding public's patience is gone," Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) said in October. "We shouldn't be here weeks before this system was due to open after delay, after delay, after delay, and have these two competing bureaucracies in a pissing match.”
Luckily the Silver Line extension was able to open prior to Thanksgiving and has seen high volume use since.