Following train derailment, changes to Metro's SafeTrack program possible

- Metro's general manager announced there may be possible changes with the SafeTrack maintenance program following a train derailment at the East Falls Church Metro station nearly two weeks ago.

A recent report released on Monday by the Federal Transit Administration outlined a long list of steps Metro is being required to take to address safety problems.

For passengers, it could mean dealing with more closures and delays because SafeTrack could be extended.

Metro said their initial investigation found the train derailment on July 29 happened on a crossover, which is where trains move from one track to another. The cause of the derailment is likely due to rotting and crumbling tracks.

Investigators also found that inspectors should have been inspecting the crossovers twice a week instead of the monthly inspections Metro had been doing. Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said he did not know that should have been the case.

Wiedefeld said the timeline for SafeTrack may have to be extended and adjusted, which may cause additional weekend shutdowns in the upcoming surges 8 through 15.

Metro said following last month’s derailment, all crossover interlocks were inspected in the entire Metro system and problems were found with six of them that will now have to be fixed.

“These are unsafe conditions, but if we are out there and we know they are at that stage, then let’s do it and be done with it,” he said.

“This is a new way of doing business,” added Wiedefeld. “We constantly have to be out there doing work.”

“The magnitude of Metro is enormous,” said D.C. Councilmember and Metro Board chair Jack Evans. “The enormous part of infrastructure that needs to be repaired, it needs to be rebuilt, it needs to be brought up to speed. It is a daunting task and so we are taking it one step at a time.”

Metro said it is bringing in contractors that specialize on different sections of safety. One of them will rewrite training manuals for track inspectors.

However, Evans said he wants riders to have realistic expectations and even when SafeTrack is done, there will still be a long list of problems that remains to be addressed in the aging system.

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