More than half of Metro’s rail cars will be replaced within the next five years under a $1.5 billion deal with the Japan-based Kawasaki company.
Richard Sarles, Metro’s general manager, told the agency’s board of directors Thursday that the rail system is exercising the option in its 2010 contract with Kawasaki to buy an additional 220 rail cars by the end of 2016. Metro has already bought 528 rail cars from the company.
The cars are part of Kawasaki’s new 7000 series, Sarles said. He said they are safer and have better doors, digital signage, cameras and automated station announcements.
With the additional cars, most of Metro’s fleet of about 1,200 rail cars will be from the 7000 series. The purchase will also help make it possible to run more eight-car trains. The first batch of new 7000 rail cars is expected to start carrying passengers in mid-2014.
About 300 of the new cars will replace Metrorail’s 1000 series cars, which have been in use since the system opened 37 years ago. Some cars in the 1000 series were involved in the 2009 crash at Fort Totten, the deadliest incident in Metro’s history. Nine people were killed.
The 1000 series cars will be turned into scrap metal after they have been stripped of any valuable parts, Metro officials said.
Metro had expected the arrival of some rail cars this summer, but because of the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, delivery was delayed. All of the new rail cars are supposed to be in the system by 2018, Metro officials said.
About 100 of the rail cars will replace the agency’s 4000 series cars, which the Metro board chairman, Tom Downs, has called dogs because of troubles with brake lights and air conditioning. They were made for Metro by the Italian manufacturer then known as Breda Costruzioni Ferroviarie.
The addition of the Silver Line, extending Metrorail service in Northern Virginia, also will require more rail cars for the system, and Metro has ordered 128 of the 7000 series to fill that need.
The first phase of the Silver Line is expected to open early next year and will stretch from East Falls Church stop to Reston. The second part of the Silver Line will run from Reston to Dulles International Airport and into Loudoun County.
Metro said that it expects to get its first four pilot cars of the 7000 series within a few months and that it plans to use those rail cars for testing and training.
On Thursday, Sarles said the agency also had decided to buy new fare gates that will allow riders to pay as they enter with a SmarTrip card, a credit card or a smartphone. The stainless steel gates will be installed throughout the Metrorail system and will replace the 1970s-era gates. Riders should begin seeing the new fare gates next year, officials said.
Sarles said he also expects in the next few months to set a schedule for the rail system’s return to automatic train operation, allowing for what he called a “smoother, more uniform” ride. Trains have been manually operated since the crash at Fort Totten.
Metro also unveiled Thursday a newer version of its subway map, which now shows the Silver Line. It is the first time the 37-year-old map has been redone. Lance Wyman, a New York graphic designer who was in charge of drawing up the original map, was hired to do the makeover.
About three dozen people from the transit agency’s largest union — Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 — protested outside Metro headquarters during the meeting over what they called unfair and discriminatory practices in background screenings.
Metro said its policy is “fair” and applies to “everyone, uniformly, without regard to race.”