The Washington subway will continue reduced service until at least Nov. 15, Reuters reported

Reuters. File photo: WASHINGTON, USA, December 17, 2020 A passenger on the Washington Metro rail car wears a protective mask. REUTERS / Tom Brenner / File photo

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Washington-area subway system said Thursday that subway service would be severely cut until at least Nov. 15 due to work to restore railcars to service after the October 12 derailment.

On Oct. 17, the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission ordered the subway system to be removed indefinitely after inspecting about 60% of its railcar derailment.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), known as the Metro, operates in the U.S. capital and parts of Maryland and Virginia. It urges passengers to get on the bus or use another transit mode. WMATA says it is working to increase the number of trains available for daily service from 31 to 50.

WMATA general manager Paul Weedfeld said he did not want to give a date for service improvement. “It’s going to be ready when it’s safe,” Weedfeld said Thursday.

WMATA said last week that the average Metrorail weekday ridership has dropped by about 25% in the days since the service cuts began.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) “ordered the commission to remove WMATA’s 748 7000-series trains from service after identifying safety concerns regarding wheel spacing on 7000-series railcar axles.”

NTSB said WMATA had been aware of the problems with wheel assembly since 2017. It was a 7000-series train that derailed outside Washington in Arlington, Virginia two weeks ago.

None of the 187 passengers derailed were injured, but NTSB chair Jennifer Homendi said the incident could be “catastrophic”.

WMATA’s ridership was very low during the epidemic. It said on Thursday that it estimates that in the 2023 budget year it will see about 53-55% of total ridership and 47-48% of total revenue pre-epidemic levels.

WMATA predicts that this year’s ridership will be about one-third of pre-COVID levels and predicts a return to pre-epidemic levels by 2025.

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