The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) Chief Safety Officer reports nearly half of the agency’s 500 rail operators have lapsed recertification, which includes classroom instruction and supervised testing in the rail yards, as well as on the mainline.
In consultation with the board, WMATA management is taking immediate corrective action to remove from service 72 train operators who became out of compliance prior to May 2021. This will result in a temporary reduction in Green and Yellow line service from every 15 minutes to every 20 minutes due to an operator shortage. In addition, extra trains to relieve crowding, support special events, or replace out-of-service trains may not be available. Service impacts are expected to continue until the end of May.
The Washington Metrorail Safety Commission (WMSC) identified lapses in recertification in a recent review, which prompted Executive VP and Chief Safety Officer Theresa M. Impastato to further investigate the issue.
“The WMATA board of directors received a safety briefing on Thursday that included learning that nearly half of all rail operators had lagging recertifications,” said WMATA Board Chair Paul C. Smedberg. “The Board finds this unacceptable and extremely disappointing. We support Metro management’s decision to immediately remove from service operators who became out of compliance more than a year ago as a first step. The board directed Metro management to provide a full accounting of how and why this occurred and develop a plan to ensure it is remedied as fast as possible.”
Recertification is important because it gives every train operator time to refresh on the rules, reinforce their knowledge, and benefit from evaluation. Also, it’s vital that WMATA management complies with policies they established to ensure safety for the traveling public. The process to recertify more than 250 rail operators will take an estimated two to three months.
“The board is deeply concerned about the impact this operator shortage may have on our customers and the region,” said Smedberg. “However, the board made it clear safety is the top priority and while Metro has made strides in recent years, this issue demonstrates that more work must be done to ensure an organizational-wide safety culture.”
WMATA’s safety department is reviewing the refresher training of more than 2,500 bus operators, which follows a different process than rail.