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WMSC approves plan to return more 7000-series rail cars to service

The train cars will be first put back into service on the Blue, Orange and Silver Lines.

WASHINGTON — More than a year after WMATA pulled all of its 7000-series train cars from its tracks, the transit agency finally has the go-ahead to put them back into service. 

For the last year, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and its regulator, Washington Metrorail Safety Commission (WMSC), have sparred over what a return to service would look like. That is, until this week when the WMSC approved Metro's plan. 

With that approval in place, more 7000-series Metro train cars will soon return to service after a review by the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission (WMSC).

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) on Oct. 12, 2021. During that incident, almost 200 people were safely evacuated from a derailed Metro Blue Line train near Arlington Cemetery. 

Immediately, the WMSC had WMATA pull all of its 7000-series cars from the tracks. This forced Metro to reduce service across all lines. This had to longer waits and congestion on trains. 

By Dec. 2021, WMATA announced plans to gradually return the 7000-series cars back to service. The plan required inspections, fixes, and a future plan for maintenance and surveillance of the cars.

In the same month, the WMSC found another set of issues with the cars, this time in at least five of the 70 cars. That incident put the return to service on hold again.

WMSC ordered revisions to WMATA's return to service plan. Since then the transit agency and its regulator have tried to come up with a plan both found feasible. 

It wasn't until October of 2022 that WMSC received the revised plan and found no technical objections. Tuesday, WMATA announced it has a plan in place to begin returning all of the 7000-series cars to service.

“Metro leaders welcomed the concurrence today of the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission to gradually return all 7000-series railcars to passenger service,” said Metro Board Chair Paul C. Smedberg. “This is a win for customers, and we are grateful to Senators Warner and Kaine for their leadership to reach an agreement that will safely return more 7Ks to service.”

The train cars will be first put back into service on the Blue, Orange and Silver Lines. A limited number of cars will be added each day on the Red, Yellow and Green Lines, while continuing inspections after every four consecutive service days. All of the returned rail cars will be used with solely high-press tonnage axles.

WMATA officials say the added rail cars will help in opening the Silver Line extension before Thanksgiving as well as reducing crowding on the Red Line.

“With this approval and close collaboration on the Silver Line extension safety report, Metro will be able to set an opening date in the near future,” said General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Randy Clarke. “I want to thank the Safety Commission for their collaboration on reaching this important safety milestone, so we have a clear path forward.”

WATCH NEXT: Metro Blue Line train defect that caused derailment could have been 'catastrophic,' safety board say

Almost 60% of Metro railcars are out of service. An investigation into last week's Blue Line derailment is turning up some problems.

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