WASHINGTON — DC Metro says it’s ready to open its Silver Line extension at Dulles International Airport in time for the Thanksgiving holiday rush, but doesn’t have the equipment to do so — and blames the Washington watchdog Metrorail Safety Commission.
In a press release WednesdayMetro said the Silver Line is “operationally ready”, but an opening date hinges on the Safety Commission providing both certification for the new line and agreement with a plan to return its 7000-series cars – shelved for more than a year by wheel problems — in service.
“It’s just a simple math equation,” said Randy Clarke, chief executive of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. as reported by WRC-TV. “We need x number of trains to provide x amount of service, and now we’re adding even more track miles for new service – so we need to bring more trains back into the system.”
The commission on Monday rejected a plan to put the metro back into service, saying the plan “is not supported by available security information”. Metro’s press release claimed that the rejection letter “continued the direction of confusion provided to Metro.” In response, the safety commission told WRC-TV it was concerned “that Metrorail is not interested in fulfilling its safety responsibilities, even going so far as to ask senior management to suggest during a public meeting of the WMATA Board of Directors that Metrorail will only mitigate known safety issues if ordered to do so.
But Metro submitted a revised plan on Thursday, The Washington Post reports, after the two agencies met with U.S. senses Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (both D-Va.), who told the organizations they needed to cooperate. The new plan includes a limit on the number of 7000 series cars to be used for the first 30 days, which was not part of the previous plan.
A day earlier, the post had reported that Warner and Kaine had called on Metro and the Safety Commission to end their “turf battles” and “coordinate” to open the Silver Line, while U.S. Representative Gerald Connelly said there had been “communication failures” between the two sides. Connelly (D-Va), is chair of the House Oversight Subcommittee on Government Operations to which Metra reports annually.
These communication issues are also addressed in a report released Wednesday by Metro’s office of inspector general, who said the safety commission does not keep records, making it difficult to substantiate some of the agency’s claims. The safety commission says it keeps records but does not share some with Metro to protect confidential sources.
The 7000 series cars were sidelined after a derailment attributed to wheels moving on their axles, an issue that had been detected, but not resolved, prior to the October 12, 2021 derailment. [see “Metrorail car in Arlington derailment …,” Trains News Wire, Oct. 19, 2021]. The initial attempt to bring them back into service was halted due to testing issues. A small number of Kawasaki-built cars – which make up more than half of Metrorail’s fleet – have been gradually returned to service.