Metro says it’s launching a training program for a specialized team of 12 people who will conduct “more comprehensive track and power inspections” throughout its rail system on a monthly basis starting April 1.
In a report before the transit agency board’s safety committee on Thursday morning, Metro says that this interim team of six crews will work while the agency and outside consultants develop a “sustainable” maintenance program. Part of that goal is to improve the identification and reporting of Metrorail defects, the likes of which led to last week’s fire near the McPherson Square station and the 2015 smoke incident at the L’Enfant Plaza station. Metro also reports that staff are currently conducting “non-emergency repairs” at 338 locations in the rail system that were spotted during last Wednesday’s shutdown. Previously, Metro had announced just under 30 emergency repairs performed last week, three of which were significant risks.
“The conditions of the 338 locations range from cable on the ground, debris near/around cables to cables not meeting engineering specifications, or minor damage,” the report explains. “After the January 2015 L’Enfant smoke and arcing incident, Metro performed a documented inspection of the cables and provided that information to the [National Transportation Safety Board].”
As Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld told reporters during the shutdown, questions remain as to why the NTSB’s review last year did not result in sufficient repairs to electrical connections. Metro looked at nearly 2,000 cables during the shutdown, including 600 “jumper cables” as well as other types of cables.
The agency is beginning to examine above-ground cables, too. It’s also hired an unspecified consultant to help develop the new inspection program which will offer recommendations by “the second week in April.”
Additionally, the safety committee considered a briefing on last Monday’s McPherson Square incident this morning. While Metro says the investigation into the cause of the incident is still ongoing, it acknowledges that a “preliminary inspection revealed a third-rail feeder cable” burned near the station, producing smoke that Wiedefeld compared last week to the L’Enfant Plaza incident, which killed one and injured more than 80 others. The agency says it’ll send the Federal Transit Administration its investigation report by April 13.
Here is a picture of what Metro’s investigators found, per Thursday’s board report:
Screenshots via Metro video of shutdown inspection and safety committee report, respectively