A component in Metro’s newest rail car series is breaking prematurely and its manufacturer has designed a modification to fix it, Metro spokesperson Dan Stessel said.
David Stephen, spokesperson for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, said a mechanic reported he was shocked while inspecting part of the underside of the 7000 series rail car Sept. 17. He called on Metro officials to pause inspection of 7000 series rail cars until after briefing railcar mechanics on potential hazards of inspecting and repairing the newest series of railcar.
“As a result of this incident, ATU Local 689 is demanding Metro not bring any 7000-series trains into the shop until all employees that come in contact with them are properly informed on the potential for hazards, and training is given on bringing trains to manufacturer specification (to date, railcar mechanics have yet to be trained on maintaining 7000-series cars),” Stephen said in a statement.
Stessel confirmed the mechanic was shocked while inspecting a railcar, adding the incident occurred at West Falls Church Rail Yard. He said the mechanic was not injured.
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Stessel added that the mechanic said he did not want medical attention but Metro staff took him to a local hospital anyway.
He said the incident occurred Sept. 17 .
Stessel said the shock was related to the deteriorating rail car part, which is called a ground brush. Stessel confirmed a problem is developing with the 7000 series trains, the newest in the Metrorail fleet.
“Yes, there were defective wires, there was a problem within the ground brush assembly itself and that problem is mitigated by the safety bulletin we put out,” Stessel said.
After the shock incident, Metro officials said mechanics should turn off the power when inspecting 7000 series railcars in rail yards, Stessel said.
Metro safety department officials distributed a safety bulletin to train mechanics Sept. 17 telling them to turn the power off when conducting a mechanical inspection of 7000 series trains in rail yards, Stessel said.
Stephen said the train mechanic could have been severely injured or killed by the electrical problem under the 7000 series rail car.
Stessel said Local 689 officials contacted Metro with the safety concern Wednesday after close of business, and then Metro Chief Safety Officer Pat Lavin, Metro Chief Operating Officer Joe Leader and a representative from Local 689, had a conference call. They agreed to put all the mechanical inspections of the 7000 series rail cars on hold, or have the mechanics stand down, until further notice. Metro officials said in a news release the afternoon of Sept. 21that mechanics would resume inspecting 7000 series railcars.
“This incident, which could have ended in death or serious injury, is the first that ATU Local 689 had learned of, but after investigation, the union has found it to be the fourth 7000-series incident in 2017,” Stephen said in a statement late Sept. 20.
Stessel said Stephen’s statement that prior similar incidents occurred this year was unfounded.