Safety fixes finished, Metro to phase out ‘7000 Series train’ announcement

This is still a 7000 Series train. You just won’t be reminded at nearly every stop.

Such announcements — which were instituted to warn blind riders that what seem like open doors could actually be a gap between cars — are being phased out this summer from Washington’s Metro system, now that safety fixes are in place.

Over the last few years, some people had stepped off the platform into what they thought was a train door, but instead fell onto the tracks. It led to urgent safety warnings from federal regulators, and eventually a promise from Metro to provide the announcements until chains could be installed between all cars on 7000 Series trains to match the between-car barriers on older rail cars.

Metro initially promised to finish the changes by the end of 2017, but later said that would not be possible due to problems procuring and installing the chains.

“All 7000 Series rail cars have now been retrofitted with the chain barriers between the cars. As a result, the announcements alerting customers to the arrival of the 7000 Series rail cars will be phased out,” General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said Thursday.

Some regular riders were confused by the announcements, and believed them to be a promotional message rather than a safety reminder, because they did not specifically warn riders to mind the gap between cars.

Removing them will mean the automated announcement of the train’s line and direction comes sooner when a train pulls into a station, making it less likely that the line-and-direction announcement is cut off by the doors-closing sound.

Fix for future rail cars

Metro’s next round of rail cars could have an entirely different type of protection between cars to prevent people from accidentally falling onto the tracks.

One proposal would include barriers between cars with an additional protective gate outside of them, said Phil Posner, Accessibility Advisory Committee chairman.

“Our committee was asked to take a look at a pantograph-style intercar barrier, which is something that’s being considered, and we were delighted to go out and look at it. … it’s really beautiful,” Posner said.

The change would address Metro’s concerns that led to the switch to rubber barriers on the 7000 Series trains by making it easier and safer to connect rail cars without increasing the risk of electrical shorts, while reducing the likelihood of someone falling onto the tracks

“Basically, it’s a clamshell that kisses. … They’re actually touching each other, and then there’s a pantograph barrier on the outside that protects you from getting in there, and [low]-vision people can use their canes and will see what’s going on,” Posner said.

“It received a very positive review from the people of our committee that went out and took a look at it. We really appreciate WMATA taking the next step,” he added.

The bidding period for the 8000 Series rail cars recently closed. Metro hopes the first of the new rail cars will start arriving in about five years. Metro could buy up to 800 of them.

Initial renderings of expected designs follow the current 7000 Series trains, but final details are yet to be confirmed.

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