Rail car part deteriorating prematurely, Metro official says
A component in Metro’s newest rail car series is breaking prematurely, and their manufacturer has designed a modification to fix it, Metro spokesperson Dan Stessel said Thursday.
A mechanic reported he suffered electrical shock while he was inspecting part of the underside of the 7000 series rail car at West Falls Church Rail Yard on Sunday, Stessel confirmed. This was related to the deteriorating rail car part, the ground brush. However, he suffered no serious injury. The mechanic said he did not want medical attention. However, Metro staff took him to a local hospital.
Stessel confirmed a problem is developing with the 7000 series trains, the newest in the Metrorail fleet.
“Yes, there were defective wires, there was a problem within the ground brush assembly itself and that problem is mitigated by the safety bulletin we put out,” Stessel said.
Metro safety department officials distributed a safety bulletin to train mechanics Sunday telling them to turn the power off when conducting a mechanical inspection of 7000 series trains in rail yards, Stessel said.
David Stephen, spokesperson for Metro union Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, said the train mechanic could have been severely injured or killed by the electrical problem under the 7000 series rail car.
Stessel said Local 689 officials contacted Metro with the safety concern Wednesday after close of business, and then Metro Chief Safety Officer Pat Lavin, Metro Chief Operating Officer Joe Leader and a representative from Local 689, had a conference call. They agreed to put all the mechanical inspections of the 7000 series rail cars on hold, or in a stand down, until further notice.
Stessel said Stephen’s statement that prior incidents occurred this year was unfounded.
“Metro is not aware of any other electric shock incidents involving similar circumstances, meaning involving ground brushes on a 7000 series car resulting in electrical shock,” Stessel said.
“Procedures we put in place following the incident on Sunday... The union felt those were inconsistent with what the manufacturer would recommend,” Stessel said.
Stessel said the solution to the safety concern was the practice of turning off the power when inspecting the rail cars, which began after Sunday’s incident.
Metro engineers said Kawasaki engineers on Thursday confirmed the method of shutting off power was in line with Kawasaki’s procedures, Metro officials said in a news release Thursday.
“The review, conducted with Metro engineers and engineers from the rail car manufacturer, found that the inspection procedures currently in place are appropriate and consistent with manufacturer guidelines,” the officials said.
The long-term solution to the problem is the modification designed by Kawasaki. The manufacturer has completed a design for the new part, Stessel said. Fixing the rail cars is part of the warranty.
“The cars are under warranty,” Stessel said. “This isn’t costing Metro anything.”
It will take four to six months to roll out the modification to Metro’s existing 7000 series rail cars, and mechanics will have to shut off power during inspections in the meantime.
Stessel said Metro supervisors administered a safety briefing to rail car mechanics about shutting the power off during inspections on Thursday.
Stephen said Local 689 President Jackie Jeter was unavailable for comment Thursday.