Metro ID’s problem with intercom system

WASHINGTON – Problems with the emergency intercoms on Metro trains, first raised four years ago, are now being addressed.

Metro announced Wednesday that it has identified a way to fix the malfunctioning intercoms just a few days after passengers couldn’t contact a train operator during a fight near the Woodley Park Station. In a written statement, Metro says that staff engineers have been working on the problem “for months in response to passenger and employee reports, as well as a request from the Tri-State Oversight Committee.”

But Metro first alluded to the problem in a 2009 press release, suggesting that Metro has known about the problem for years, as first reported by NBC 4.

However Metro Spokesman Dan Stessell tells WTOP there has been a turnover in leadership at the transit agency since then and no current officials were aware of the concerns from 2009. General Manager Richard Sarles has ordered a review to find out why.

In the meantime, Metro pulled all 6000 series cars out of the lead position. And repair work has begun to update the electrical components and software to ensure the 6000 series cars, the newest in the system, can communicate with older-model train cars.

Stessel says the intercoms fail only when a 6000 series rail car was in the lead position ahead of older-model 4000 and 1000 series cars. The newer cars send too much electricity to the older cars, causing the failure.

The train carrying passengers who witnessed the fight this week was led by a 6000 series car, NBC 4 reported.

The 2009 release reads in part:

“A consequence of mixing 1000 Series cars with newer models such as the 6000 Series cars … Officials have also discovered that sometimes the intercoms used by customers to communicate with the train operators also do not always function, and officials are seeking to identify a fix to that situation.”

Metro safety teams also began randomly checking the intercoms on all trains Wednesday. Any train found without a working intercom will be taken out of service, according to the transit agency.

The repairs should take about 45 days.

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