WASHINGTON — Metro’s new trains have been rolling out much more slowly than initially promised, but Metro’s general manager says new cars will begin to arrive a bit more quickly in early 2016.
Paul Wiedefeld says 76 of the new 7000-series cars are now on Metro property, with 56 (seven eight-car trains) available for service. The other cars are being tested or used for training.
He says an eighth new train is set to go into service in early January, and the company making the cars has promised to improve construction and complete more cars for delivery beginning in February.
“I have gotten different guarantees from the company (Kawasaki) that we will start to receive additional vehicles starting in February, approximately eight per month, but I want to make sure before we commit to that that we are totally on board with what we’re getting.” Wiedefeld says.
There were initially some software problems with the 7000-series cars, and later, simpler problems such as loose seats. Kawasaki had been scheduled to deliver 16 of the cars per month before the problems arose.
“In terms of reliability, I have put immediate focus on our railcars,” Wiedefeld says.
“We do not want to accept cars that we then in fact have to go back and retrofit immediately. That is a mistake that we would have to live with for 40 years, and we do not want to do that.”
Originally, a significant number of the 7000-series cars were supposed to be available when the Silver Line opened in 2014, but a number of problems, including the earthquake in Japan, delayed the cars.
The first new train finally rolled out this April.
Metro’s budget proposal for the coming year includes money for a total of 748 new 7000-series cars over the coming years. That would be enough to replace all of the 1000-, 4000- and 5000-series cars in the system.
The 1000-series cars are the oldest, and the National Transportation Safety Board says the cars need to be replaced for safety reasons. Metro says the 4000-series cars are less reliable than others in the system, and need to replaced soon as well.
But the delays in delivery of the 7000-series mean that the final car to replace the 1000 series is expected to be delivered in fiscal year 2019.
Replacement of the 4000-series cars would begin after that.
Eventually, Metro’s Capital Improvement Program calls for 748 new 7000-series railcars. That would allow for the replacement of the 5000-series cars and an expansion of the fleet by 156 cars to allow for more eight-car trains and an extension to the end of the line of rush-hour trains on the Red Line. Right now, those trains end at Silver Spring or Grosvenor-Strathmore.
The 2017 proposed operating budget for Metrobus, Metrorail and MetroAccess is $1.7 billion, with 48 percent of the money coming from fares and parking fees and 49 percent coming from government subsidy contributions.
The proposed operating budget could be affected by a new contract for the more than 9,000 Metro workers in Amalgamated Transit Union 689, since the existing four-year deal is set to expire at the end of June.
It includes about $12 million and 62 new positions specifically to address the Federal Transit Administration’s Safety Management Inspection, and the six-year capital budget includes more than $1 billion to fund recommendations from the FTA and National Transportation Safety Board. About half of that, $455 million, is designated for the rest of the new 7000-series cars, and $310 million is designated to improve radio communication and ensure there is cellphone service in all Metro tunnels.
Toward the end of the six-year plan, Metro expects to begin receiving the next generation of railcars after the 7000 series, which would replace the 2000- and 3000-series cars purchased in the 1980s.
In the meantime, Metro plans to install digital radios and test all heating and air conditioning systems in 5000-series cars and to replace emergency exit doors on 4000 Series cars.