WASHINGTON — The head of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)said on Monday the agency may issue an “urgent recommendation” telling transit agencies to inspect Kawasaki train cars to make sure they do not have wheel set assembly issues like those found on one involved in an Oct. 12 derailment near Washington D.C.
“We may at some point issue an urgent recommendation,” NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy told reporters at a press conference Monday. “If you are a transit agency operating in the United States and you’re listening, make sure you are checking your cars as well.”
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) on Sunday was ordered to not use nearly 60% of its rail fleet Monday after a safety probe found defects similar to an issue in a recent derailment.
Homendy said WMATA has been aware of wheel set assembly issue since 2017. She said preliminary data showed that since 2017, there have been 31 WMATA wheel assembly failures –including 18 in this year — and 21 failures were uncovered during inspections that began Friday and are ongoing.
A Blue Line 7000-series WMATA train that derailed on Oct. 12 between Rosslyn and Arlington Cemetery stations actually derailed at least three separate times on Monday, Homendy said.
The derailment did not injure any of the 187 passengers onboard, but Homendy said the incident could have been “catastrophic.”
WMATA is running about 40 trains Monday “offering a basic service pattern on all lines of trains departing about every 30 minutes.” Schools and others warned of significant delays.
The Washington Metrorail Safety Commission (WMSC) said it on Sunday had ordered the 7000-series trains removed from service no later than 5 a.m. Monday (0900 GMT) after the NTSB “identified safety concerns related to the spacing of wheels on 7000 Series railcar axles.” WMATA has 748 7000-series cars.
WMATA’s 7000-series cars were built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and its subsidiary New York-based Kawasaki Rail Car Inc. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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