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New Metro 7000 class train cars may be delayed by debate over safety

The planned January debut of Metro’s new 7000 class of train cars could be delayed by an oversight committee’s concerns over safety inspections. The first eight cars out of 528 total ordered from Kawasaki (and 748 overall) are supposed to start carrying passengers in January. All 748 are supposed to be deployed and operational by 2018.

Metro officials say that the 7000 class cars have been thoroughly tested for safety. Klara Baryshev, chair of the Tri-State Oversight Committee, disagrees. The committee, made up of three members from two states of Maryland and Virginia and the District of Columbia, monitors and reports on the overall safety of the Metro system.

Baryshev takes umbrage with the way Metro conducts safety checks. She told the Washington Post that “They take one item, they verify it in car number one, for example. They take another item, verify it in car number two. The problem is, they do not verify every item in every car. It’s random verification.” Baryshev advocates for the most thorough approach possible- testing every item in every one of the eight cars. The TOC has no power to enforce these recommendations, but is very unlikely Metro would launch the cars without the approval of the TOC.

Metro’s head of vehicle program services, Joseph Reynolds, told the Post that “We’ve already validated the design. It’s like if you build an airplane, you test the components of the airplane, you validate that they’re going to perform according to your design, and then you go into manufacturing.”

According to the Post, Baryshev, in a letter to Metro safety chief James Dougherty, wrote “TOC is concerned that because [Metro] is not verifying the completion of all certifiable items for each individual car, an undetected design problem in the four cars may be repeated.” Implementing this thorough verification process would be very time consuming, and would possibly affect not only the rollout of the 7000 class of train cars but the switch back to automatic train operation as well.

The Federal Transit Administration has thus far remained aloof from the debate, saying in a statement that “Decisions related to safety certification of the 7000 series rail cars are between the TOC and WMATA. It’s our understanding that TOC and WMATA are working to address outstanding concerns.”

Metro’s plan to increase the 7000 class from 528 to 748 cars rests on the approval of increased budget subsidies from local jurisdictions. These two fights with local government loom heavily over Metro’s plans for the future.

Featured image from Shutterstock

Brad Matthews

Brad Matthews is the Digital Content Coordinator intern for Watchdog Wire. Twitter is @bradmatthewsDC

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Categories: Transportation
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