- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Metro officials say the mechanical breakdown Tuesday of a rail car that temporarily closed a stretch of the Blue and Orange lines and stranded passengers underground for hours was the result of a brake-equipment malfunction.

The transit agency made the announcement Wednesday after an inspection of the malfunctioning Blue line car and others in the 5000-series. Agency officials said a problem with a hub appears to have cause a friction ring to come loose from the brake assembly. However, they remain uncertain about what exactly caused the malfunction.

As a result of the inspection, Metro has identified 16 cars from that series with the same potential problem and has removed them from the fleet. An agency spokesman said the move will not affect service. The agency has about 192 5000-series cars, according to a recent report.

The incident occurred at about 9:40 a.m. Tuesday between the L’Enfant Plaza and Smithsonian stations. Riders reported hearing a loud bang and saw sparks and smoke.

Service was suspended between Metro Center and Federal Center Southwest, but not before two other trains were damaged and another was stranded between stations.

Rescue worked helped about 300 passengers off the train. There was no report of injuries, and service was restored at about 2:30 p.m.

“I want to thank the D.C. fire department for its leadership and recognize the outstanding job they did, both on incident command and on the safe evacuation of our passengers,” said Richard Sarles, the agency’s general manager and chief executive officer.

He also said the agency, as a result of the incident, would make improvements on communicating [-] including customers stranded on trains and arriving at affected stations.

The second improvement will be to improve underground emergency-radio communication, in part by continuing to test signal-boosting technology.

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