- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 7, 2001

Metros newest subway cars remain sidelined because its engineers cannot fix the cars brakes, Metro officials said.
Terry Consavage, director of rail-systems engineering, said they found numerous malfunctions in the computer software of the cars dynamic brake system, which uses electric motors instead of friction brakes to slow the trains.
"One of the software problems is that sometimes the dynamic brakes cut off," said Mr. Consavage. "It all looked good on paper. That is the reason we are testing them."
Metro officials had hoped to have the cars in service in December, but they have not been able to get four test cars to operate properly. Officials said they have not had a successful test run on the cars and have no idea when the cars will be put into service.
A Metro worker familiar with the new cars said the new subway cars have more than a hundred engineering problems that the engineers have not been able to fix. As soon as the engineers fix one problem in a particular system, another part of the system fails, the worker said.
"These are not minor glitches. These are major problems," the worker said. "That thing is such a mess. [The engineers] are out there at nights trying to get something going."
Lemuel Proctor, chief operating officer of Metros rail services, said he would prefer the trains be put in service late than find a major flaw after they are in service. He said Metro previously did not require the cars to have safety certifications, which is required for all the new cars.
"It is not acceptable," Mr. Proctor said. "With safety certification, we can put these cars in service with a clear conscience."
Metro safety director Fred Goodine said Metro is the first mass-transit system to certify all of its work as being safe for passengers. He said the Federal Transit Administration is planning to require all mass-transit systems that receive federal funding to be safety certified.
The new cars, called the 5000 Series, are built by CAF of Madrid and have been plagued with problems since their delivery to Metro last year. CAF has built train cars for use in Europe, and its $220 million contract with Metro is its first for building U.S. subway cars.
CAF delivers its cars to AAI in Hunt Valley, Md., where they are assembled and then delivered to Metro. There are 28 cars parked at Metros Greenbelt yard; 18 others are parked at Hunt Valley.
CAF was supposed to have delivered 80 cars that Metro was to have accepted conditionally by the end of this month, but only four cars are acceptable and have not received safety certification to carry passengers. The company has delivered only 46 cars, and 14 others are in transit.
Eighteen of the new cars were supposed to be used on the newly opened southern end of the Green Line to the Branch Avenue station. That section has experienced overcrowding of trains.
Metro originally had expected only 22,000 additional passenger trips per day on that section of the Green Line, but has been averaging between 37,000 and 38,000 passenger trips per day.
Metro spokesman Ray Feldmann said it is unlikely that CAF will meet the terms of the contract by the end of the month and will be charged $25,080 per day until 76 other cars receive conditional acceptance. Mr. Feldmann said CAF is expected to be told to stop sending cars until the company can fix the cars problems.
The Washington Times has found that the new cars are filled with flaws, including being built with weight imbalances that could cause them to topple. Metro officials originally discounted the weight-imbalance problem, but Booz Allen & Hamilton, Metros main rail car consultant, also found the the cars failed the weight specifications.
The Times also has found that the cars wooden floors have cracks, which some Metro workers attribute to heat buildup from electrical components under the floors. Metros other subway-car floors are clad in metal, but the 5000 Series floors are not clad because the cars components are enclosed underneath.
"If I was a woman in heels, I would hate to hit one of those cracks," one Metro worker said.
"The floors cant take the heat from the electrical equipment. The floors are warping," said another employee. "What they did was design a kit so they can slice open the carpet and repair them. What they need to do is fix the problem so they dont have this added maintenance."
Mr. Consavage said the cracks are in the plywood floors vapor barrier and discounted that heat caused the cracks.
Metro employees have found that some of the cars seats were not installed properly, allowing them to be pulled away from the interior walls.
Mr. Consavage said the seat problem has been fixed. He said the two seats at the rear of the cars were fastened with a rivet that did not hold. He said the rivet was replaced with a bolt and the seats have not failed safety tests.

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