- The Washington Times - Friday, April 26, 2002

A Metro investigation found that the transit agency's subway-car maker installed a faulty door circuit in a new rail car that caused a woman to be trapped in the doors and dragged along a platform in January.

The manufacturer CAF of Madrid did not tell Metro it installed the faulty circuit after the transit authority had accepted the car on Aug. 26. The circuit is designed to prevent subway cars from moving when someone is trapped in the doors.

The Washington Times first reported that Li J. Yu, 58, of Cheverly became trapped in a subway car's doors on Jan. 9 and was dragged along the platform at the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metrorail station until she could free herself. Mrs. Yu said she believed she would be killed as the train sped away before she fell to the ground and worked herself free.

Metro, which originally classified the accident as a "minor malfunction," made no public statement about the incident until after The Times reported about it on Feb. 20.

"[The circuit] had already passed acceptance when it was changed out," said Fred Goodine, Metro's assistant general manager for system safety and risk protection. "[CAF officials] admitted it was their fault."

Metro's report notes that the train operator, who was fired, did not check to see that all passengers were clear from the platform. The investigation found that the operator ran the train despite pleas from passengers to stop.

Mrs. Yu's attorney, Ted Williams, said Metro's investigation showed that CAF and the transit agency were negligent, adding that his client still was being treated for injuries she received in the accident.

"We clearly believe there is clear negligence here, and we plan to pursue all options available for Mrs. Yu," Mr. Williams said. "She has certainly been greatly traumatized by the negligent acts of these parties."

Mr. Goodine said Metro found that CAF made the circuit in Spain and found it to be defective, but put it in the same bin with other usable circuits. He said CAF officials did not know who replaced the circuit in the new rail car or why because the replacement was not properly documented.

Because of Metro's findings, CAF has moved its quality-control managers from Spain to Washington to monitor Metro's acceptance of new cars, Mr. Goodine said.

CAF was supposed to have delivered by now all 192 of the cars it was contracted to build for Metro. It has delivered only 76, of which 40 are undergoing safety inspections. Metro agency has accepted 36 cars, and the others still need to be built.

Mr. Goodine said CAF is supposed to fulfill its $220 million contract and deliver acceptable cars within the next year. "There is a new management structure in place to ensure quality," he said.

Over the past two years, The Times has reported several problems with Metro's new rail cars, including brakes, propulsion systems and doors. The problems have forced Metro to delay putting the cars into service as its ridership steadily increases.

Metro Board members yesterday agreed to a new schedule to put the new 5000 Series cars on the tracks, but said they are unhappy about nearly a yearlong delay.

"The contractor knows we are disappointed," said Metro General Manager Richard A. White.

Metro staff told the agency's Operations Committee that part of the delay comes because Metro changed specifications on the cars after the order was placed. Metro asked for door threshold extensions, changes to wheels and axles and inter-car barriers along with rejecting some for various malfunctions.

The contractor normally would charge extra to add the new features and would face significant penalties for being so late. Instead, Metro and CAF have balanced some of those charges and set a new schedule that would deliver the new cars by April 2003, instead of this June.

CAF also will face $2 million in penalties if it fails to stick to the schedule of delivering 14 cars a month until April 2003. To meet the contract, the manufacturer plans to open a new plant in Elmira, N.Y., by July to produce six cars each month.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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