Home News Metro tracks might be contributing to 7000-series safety issue
Metro tracks might be contributing to 7000-series safety issue

Metro tracks might be contributing to 7000-series safety issue

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Wheel issues comparable to those who sidelined about half of Metro’s rail automobile fleet additionally occurred years earlier on older automobiles, partly stemming from a observe concern Metro by no means addressed, the transit system’s regulatory company stated Tuesday whereas citing a years-old report that just lately got here to gentle.

The 2015 report from Metro engineers broadens the scope of the federal investigation right into a defect that primarily impacts 7000-series rail automobiles, most of which stay suspended practically a 12 months after a practice derailed when wheels moved aside on an axle. The report, uncovered by Washington Metrorail Security Fee investigators, says the wheel downside occurred sufficient occasions earlier than 2015 that Metro employed an engineering marketing consultant to check the issue.

The marketing consultant’s report, the fee stated, cited issues with the meeting of rail automobile wheels and axles, and with “restraining rails” within the Metro system.

The revelation from the protection fee raises questions concerning the total security of the rail system and whether or not its tracks are contributing to rail automobile wheels transferring aside, making trains extra weak to derailments. It comes because the suspension of Metro’s newest practice collection has ushered in prolonged waits for commuters, hurting efforts to lure again riders amid a shift to telework.

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An investigation by the Nationwide Transportation Security Board final fall discovered that the wheel downside appeared in about 50 of Metro’s 7000-series rail automobiles over 4 years, prompting the protection fee to order the collection out of service. The automobiles are Metro’s most superior mannequin and beforehand had the fleet’s cleanest security document. The transit system has 748 of the rail automobiles.

It’s not recognized why Metro’s observe points weren’t addressed, however inner critiques on the company raised the matter as just lately as final 12 months, in accordance with the protection fee. Metro declined to reply questions on the report or its findings however tweeted a press release assuring riders the transit system is secure.

“Our complete fleet is usually inspected to deem our rail automobiles secure for passenger service,” the assertion stated. “We proceed to work with the [safety commission] as a part of the NTSB investigation on the 2021 Blue Line derailment.”

Whereas the discoveries deliver a brand new dimension to the investigation into the derailment, security fee spokesman Max Smith stated the observe points don’t pose a brand new risk to riders. He known as the problem with the restraining rail positioned in observe switches or turnouts that assist trains maneuver on curves one a part of what might be inflicting wheel actions.

“The [rail] system is a fancy interplay of programs,” he stated. “It’s not like there’s one factor you’ll repair and that may repair the issues, essentially.”

It’s unclear how lengthy wheel questions of safety have been surfacing or what fashions have been cited for having unsafe wheels. Smith stated the 2015 report cited greater than 30 situations of wheel actions — instances that had not been publicly disclosed till Tuesday.

Beforehand, one different automobile exterior the 7000 Collection was publicly recognized to have skilled wheel issues. In December, the protection fee reported {that a} 6000-series automobile — the 7000 collection’ predecessor that was constructed by a unique firm — had an issue with wheelsets widening. Metro officers on the time stated the problem was unrelated to the defect within the 7000 collection.

Security Fee Chief Govt David L. Mayer stated Tuesday that the 2015 report got here to gentle through the investigation into the 7000-series automobiles. The security fee had been unaware of the report, which was launched three years earlier than Congress created the fee to supervise security on the rail system.

Mayer stated present Metro observe engineering management additionally realized of the report through the investigation.

The report, Mayer stated, discovered issues in how automobile wheels and axles are put collectively and with the quantity of power the tracks place on wheel flanges — the edges manufactured from metal or different steel that hold automobiles on tracks.

Russell Quimby, a railroad accident marketing consultant who labored as an NTSB investigator for greater than twenty years, stated Metro’s turnouts or switches may need flangeways which might be too slim or extra restrictive than they need to be. Not solely can the stress trigger wheels to widen on their axles, he stated, however it causes pointless put on on wheels and will increase upkeep bills.

“These flangeways are placing stress on these wheels,” he stated. “This appears like a screw-up by the observe division, to be sincere with you.”

After the engineering report was launched seven years in the past, Mayer stated, the transit company ordered a change in automobile wheel specs and to the power with which wheels are pressed onto axles. It requested for the modifications from Kawasaki Rail Automotive, which was manufacturing the 7000 collection at a plant in Lincoln, Neb.

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No alterations had been made to automobiles that already had been completed, Mayer stated.

“Because of this the brand new specs utilized to roughly the ultimate one-third of the 7000 collection automobiles Metrorail accepted, and to not the primary two-thirds of the 748 automobiles,” he stated. “Metrorail didn’t tackle the opposite recognized merchandise in its wheel migration report — a priority with flangeway width on restraining rails all through the system.”

The 2015 report known as for changes to the rail flangeway widths on the observe, Mayer stated. Setting the right width “is essential to making sure that no pointless power is positioned on the wheel flange by a restraining or guard rail,” he stated. The report, he stated, indicated that the power utilized to wheels from “these improperly positioned restraining rails” may cause wheels to shift aside.

Metro officers didn’t reply to questions on why the changes weren’t made. An inner assessment in June of labor carried out in 2021 and 2020 discovered that high quality assurance inspectors have questioned Metro’s requirements for its restraining rails, calling for the company to conduct an engineering research and replace track-design standards based mostly on the outcomes.

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Metro officers have stated in latest months that quite a few components is perhaps contributing to the wheel security downside. That’s one motive the protection fee has restricted which traces can host up to twenty of the returning 7000-series trains — a complete of 160 rail automobiles — a measure designed to permit each businesses to check its results on the automobiles.

“Out there data continues to counsel there are a number of contributing components to this wheel migration on 7000 collection automobiles, together with components that might differ throughout comparable parts of the Metrorail system,” Mayer stated. “Line limitations are necessary to make sure that too many variables will not be modified on the similar time, in order that knowledge collected on wheel migration or lack thereof might be correctly evaluated.”

The security fee has permitted the returning 7000-series trains on the Inexperienced and Pink traces, in addition to on the Yellow Line, which is quickly closed for a bridge and tunnel mission. Mayer stated Tuesday that the protection fee cited Metro on Sept. 7 for placing a 7000-series practice on the Blue Line for greater than an hour.

The defect that causes wheels to shift is progresses slowly, investigators and specialists say. It doesn’t have an effect on all automobiles and surfaces solely after prolonged use.

The security fee has allowed Metro to return some automobiles to service in phases below an settlement that Metro inspects the automobiles after 4 days of use. No automobiles have proven indicators of the defect since Metro has returned them to service.

Metro Common Supervisor Randy Clarke has stated returning all 748 automobiles is one in all Metro’s greatest priorities. He stated transit engineers proceed to work on putting in and testing an automatic wayside inspection system that Metro hopes will expedite wheel screenings now carried out manually by Metro staff.

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Security fee officers stated Metro has not submitted plans to make use of the automated system, which have to be accepted by the fee.

The NTSB continues to analyze the trigger, origin and circumstances surrounding the defect. Each Metro and the protection fee are members within the probe.

NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway stated Tuesday that the company had nothing new to launch about Metro’s observe points.

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