Metro officials disregarded federal warnings about the dangers of building the transit system alongside railroad tracks because of conflicts of interest among members of a panel formed in the early 1970s to study the construction plans, according to a draft paper by National Transportation Safety Board investigators.

The NTSB paper contends that Metro's study panel was dominated by engineering consultants who had helped design the plans that were to be studied.

"Conflict of interest permeated the makeup" of the Board of Railroad Safety Consultants, organized by Metro in 1973 to study the transit agency's plans to lay its tracks parallel to railroad tracks, the draft paper said.

As a result, the group reached "a predetermined, guarded outcome of little substance without any major changes in design," according to the document, which was provided to Metro officials for review last week. A copy was made available to The Washington Post.

"The joint corridor was built with no substantial changes and with little regard for the inherent safety problems of such an arrangement despite several safety studies and evaluations to the contrary," the draft paper said.

The draft paper, which is subject to revision within NTSB, was written as part of a report to be issued by NTSB when it completes an investigation of safety risks in the rail corridor between Washington's Union Station and Silver Spring.

NTSB launched the probe after the June 19 derailment of 12 freight cars on a CSX Corp. train, which ripped up nearby Metro tracks and disrupted Red Line service for three days.

Metro officials declined to comment on the paper because NTSB's final report has not been issued.

Metro plans to exclude any consultants with previous experience in the shared corridor from participating in two new safety studies, said Vernon K. Garrett Jr., Metro's director of engineering and architecture and a member of the 1973 panel.

James A. Caywood, president of DeLeuw Cather & Co., Metro's general engineering consultant, directed the consultants study and said yesterday that the panel "was not formed with any bias. It was formed to come up with rational and reasonable recommendations for that corridor.

"We were honestly seeking reasonable solutions to a recognized problem," Caywood said. "Nobody took this lightly at all."

In addition to Caywood and Garrett, members of Metro's consultants panel were Edwin Q. Johnson, Chessie's chief engineer; Frank Woolford, retired chief engineer of the Western Pacific Railroad, and Vernon L. Grose, an independent safety consultant and former NTSB board member.

The NTSB draft notes that safety experts cautioned in 1970 that Metro's plans to build parts of the system alongside railroad tracks created "the potential for catastrophe" in the event of a derailment.

In 1971, Metro began construction on the Red Line from Brookland to Silver Spring. Metro and the Chessie System, now part of CSX, decided in March 1973 to study the risks of a shared corridor.

When the board of safety consultants issued a report in 1975, Metro construction along the corridor "was well along, if not beyond the point of no return," the new NTSB draft paper said. The consultants rejected as impractical the ideas of building barriers between the sets of tracks or reducing train speeds in the corridor.

Among the panel's recommendations were the use of faulty-equipment detectors on the tracks and the construction of a warning fence to alert Metro to a derailment or other intrusion onto its tracks.

"The extremely belated interest {Metro} showed in forming the board of railroad safety consultants and the inordinate amount of time taken to conduct the common corridor study, along with the manner the study was conducted and the anemic final report, are all indications of an effort to rubber-stamp previous consultant designs and current construction," the new NTSB paper said.

"Our board was not anemic," said Grose. He defended the board as "innovative and courageous in some sense" but said that, in the end, Metro "took weak countermeasures."