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Metro brake problems existed in 2006

Thursday - 3/8/2012, 10:33pm  ET

Adam Tuss, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Metro had brake problems in 2006 that were similar to recent Blue and Orange line issues that left riders shaken.

During a board meeting Thursday, the Transit Agency's rail chief revealed that in 2006, two similar "hub" problems occurred on the 5000 series set of rail cars. A plan was put in place then to fix the hubs, but it was ultimately put on hold for financial reasons.

In December, a friction ring -- part of a brake hub -- fell off a 5000 series rail car between the Smithsonian and L'Enfant Plaza station, causing sparks, smoke and stranding riders underground for hours. A month later, a similar incident happened outside the Stadium-Armory Station.

Boardmember Mort Downey, head of Metro's Safety and Security Committee -- who also represents the federal government, -- was stern with Metro staff when he heard about the issues in 2006.

"So one could argue, from 2006 forward, these hubs were operating on borrowed time? They were past their useful life?" asked Downey.

"Yes," said Metro Rail Chief Dave Kubicek.

"I just hate the idea that we would have cars running around with parts that we knew -- someone should have been there with their hair on fire saying we can't do that," said Downey.

Metro says it has replaced the hubs on 98 percent of the 5000 series rail cars. Daily inspections on these types of brake hubs continue.

Richard Sarles, Metro general manager, said, "We continue to run a safe service. What we are doing differently than we have done in the past is to look at things in a comprehensive manner."

"We have changed the way we approach documentation, the way we track things."

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)