By Kathleen Stubbs
Metro may rehire a track inspection supervisor who had been fired almost two years ago, following an arbitration decision Oct. 5, according to David Stephen, spokesperson for the supervisor’s union.
Stephen, spokesperson for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, said a three-member arbitration panel voted with a majority supporting that Metro rehire former track inspection supervisor Christopher Bell.
“That was the ruling by an arbitration panel,” said Metro spokesperson Ron Holzer,” on the order for reinstatement of Bell. “Metro is now considering its options.”
“We are happy for Mr. Bell, as well as the riding public, because now the system is safer than before,” said Raymond Jackson, second vice-president for Local 689. “Metro has finally acknowledged their failures to train and has corrected the problem. The retraining proves that the issue was management’s failures and not the workforce itself. We look forward to our members getting back to work, and we hope everyone, including General Manager Paul Wiedefeld, will join us in making Metro safer, more affordable, and more reliable.”
Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld announced Jan. 26, 2017, that he had fired one-third of track-inspection employees following Metro Transit Police Department’s investigation into falsification of track-inspection reports.
Wiedefeld ordered the track-inspection department to be retrained and hired a contractor to rewrite Metro’s track-inspection manual. He ordered a Metro Transit Police investigation after a Silver Line train derailed, damaging tracks and forcing riders to walk to the platform, two years ago. Two railcars of a Silver Line train carrying 75 passengers derailed as the train was passing through a crossover where trains can switch from one track to another, on July 29, 2016. The derailment left two passengers injured, including one with a minor head injury. Metro employees had to shut down the nearby East Falls Church station through the end of the weekend to repair the tracks and replace the defective wooden rail ties that investigators from Metro and the Federal Transit Administration found near the point of derailment.
Inspectors re-inspected all crossovers in the rail system after the derailment. Based on findings from the inspections, Wiedefeld added capital repair projects to SafeTrack – the year of capital projects that requiring continuous single-tracking or station shutdowns – particularly in the areas of crossovers.