For Metro inspectors, safety carries high price: Efficiency
Metro continues to overhaul its track inspection department one year after a high-profile derailment on the Silver Line, but efforts to improve the quality of inspections have been hampered by some seemingly intractable problems: troublesome technology, daily time constraints and the agency’s self-imposed safety regulations that have made it more difficult for inspectors to access the tracks.
An internal report prepared by Metro’s quality control unit — and delivered to senior managers in June — outlined many of these problems, detailing four “wins” within the track inspection department and 14 other “areas for improvement.”
The improvements, according to the quality control unit: Track inspectors have gone through an enhanced training program (“very effective and informative,” commented one of the report’s authors after watching a training session), and more inspections take place at night, when there are fewer interruptions from passing trains. Additionally, workers have finally ramped up their use of an $8 million track inspection machine that was rarely utilized before the derailment.
The report also paints a clear picture of the myriad challenges: The software that allows inspectors to log track defects remains confusing to workers and allows for redundancies and inaccurate information. It’s a problem Metro is grappling with even after the agency fired a third of its track inspection department following