D.C. Area Transit Agency to Fund Fix for Faulty Train Doors

By James Hohmann
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Metro's board is slated to approve a $638,000 contract on Thursday to repair malfunctioning electronic hardware on every door of one-quarter of its rail cars.

Fixing about 1,800 "door control units" on the oldest 1000 series cars will take 2 1/2 to three years, said Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel.

"Essentially, it's a safety issue that needs to be corrected," he said. "We need to retain the reliability of the 1000 series cars."

Since April 2008, Metro train operators have manually opened and closed train doors at every stop. The decision to put humans in control came after a malfunction in the automatic train control system caused doors to open on the wrong side four times in 100 days.

The 1000 series cars, more than 30 years old, are the oldest in Metro's fleet. The National Transportation Safety Board has said the cars have a tendency to fold into themselves, like a telescope, during a crash. The first car of the striking train in the June 22 Red Line crash that killed nine and injured 80 was a 1000 series car. It compressed by two-thirds.

Metro plans to phase out 1000 series cars, which make up more than 25 percent of its 1,126-car fleet. But Taubenkibel said that did not eliminate the need to fix the problem.

"We still need these cars to operate in service," he said. "Any type of replacement vehicle is several years away."

The contract to fix the doors (six each on 290 rail cars) is with Alstom Signaling.

Metro said it worked with the company to test the hardware repair in a laboratory and the field. The money to pay for the repairs comes from a $10.5 million pot set aside to pay for "urgent capital needs."

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