“For reasons I will not defend, we frankly did not act quickly enough to make repairs.”
That was Metro Interim General Manager and CEO Jack Requa’s message to the public today at a press conference regarding last week’s derailment of a non-passenger train near the Smithsonian station. The incident—which created long delays for Blue, Orange, and Silver line commuters—was caused by a “wide-gauge” problem, Requa explained, meaning that tracks were not aligned properly. The twist? Metro had identified the issue on July 9, almost a month before the Aug. 6 incident.
“This is totally unacceptable,” Requa told reporters outside Metro HQ Wednesday afternoon.
A system-wide inspection of every mile of track has been ordered, he added; this will likely take two to four weeks to finish, and customers should expect delays when tracks are being repaired. Requa said he is not currently aware of other specific rail-defects, but that they could lead to track “shutdowns” once they’ve been identified.
“Metro, from top to bottom, is responsible” for the recent derailment, Requa explained. Terminations may be forthcoming.
Asked by City Desk whether Metro got “lucky” that there were no passengers on the train that derailed around 6 a.m. last Thursday, Requa responded: “I certainly am pleased, in a sense, that there were no injuries.” He added that Metro is working every day to make repairs, and asking riders to be patient.
The day after the derailment, Metro announced it would reimburse riders of the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines who had entered the transit system on Friday between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m., as compensation for Thursday’s delays as well as for a power outage and single tracking that took place that Friday. Requa disclosed today that more than 158,000 refunds have been processed, averaging $4.75 a person. They also cost Metro a total of about $750,000.
“To me, it’s more important that we demonstrate that we don’t want to lose our customers” than pay for the SmarTrip card reimbursement, Requa said.
The disclosure comes during a particularly rough year for Metro, in which one person died and dozens were injured due to tunnel smoke, in January.
This post has been updated with additional information.
Photo by Andrew Giambrone