© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A passenger wears a protective face mask aboard a Washington Metro Rail Car in Washington, the United States, Dec. 17, 2020. REUTERS / Tom Brenner / File Photo
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Washington area subway system announced Thursday that subway service will remain severely restricted until at least Nov. 15 as it works to replace railcars after a derailment on Nov. To be operational again in October.
On October 17, the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission ordered that the subway system indefinitely remove approximately 60% of its railcars following post-derailment inspections.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), known as Metro, serves the US capital and parts of Maryland and Virginia. It encourages commuters to take buses or use other modes of transport. WMATA said it was working to increase the number of trains available for daily service from 31 to 50.
WMATA managing director Paul Wiedefeld said he did not want to announce a date for service improvement. "It will be ready when it is safe," said Wiedefeld on Thursday.
Metrorail's average weekday ridership fell by about 25% in the days after the reduced service began, WMATA said last week.
The commission ordered WMATA's 748 series 7000 series trains to be decommissioned after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) identified "safety issues related to wheel spacing on the axles of 7000 series railcars would have".
The NTSB said WMATA had had wheel assembly issues since 2017. It was a 7000 series train that derailed two weeks ago outside Washington in Arlington, Virginia.
The derailment did not injure any of the 187 passengers on board, but NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy said the incident could have been "catastrophic".
WMATA had a significantly lower number of passengers during the pandemic. It said Thursday it estimated total passenger numbers at around 53 to 55% and total revenue at 47 to 48% of pre-pandemic levels in budget year 2023.
WMATA predicts that the number of passengers this year will be around a third of the pre-COVID levels and predicts that usage will return to pre-pandemic levels by 2025.
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