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Metro's New Rail Cars Will Be 5 Months Late; Agency Blames Japanese Earthquake

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A rendering of what Metro's new 7000-series rail cars will look like. | WMATA

WASHINGTON -- Expect some future delays for Metro's future.

According to The Washington Post's Dana Hedgpeth, Metro General Manager Richard Sarles told the transit agency's board of directors on Thursday afternoon that the new 7000-series rail cars "will be about five months late in being delivered to the agency."

As agency spokesman Dan Stessel tells the Post, the massive Japanese earthquake and tsunami earlier in the year has created problems for "suppliers who make semi-conductors and other specialized electronics used for propulsion and communication systems on the rail cars."

Some of those new rail cars, being manufactured by Kawasaki, are destined for service on the new Silver Line rail extension, a branch of the current Orange Line that will eventually reach Dulles Airport and Loudoun County via Tysons Corner. But the majority of the new rail cars will replace the system's aging 1000-series rail cars, which have been cited for their poor crashworthiness.

The 7000-series cars will feature, according to Metro:

  • A stainless steel exterior with 64 vinyl padded seats and seat-back grab handles.
  • Added handholds in the door area and vertical poles added at each seat -- for a total of 25% more linear feet of bars than in the most recently built cars.
  • Carpeting is replaced with resilient, nonslip flooring.
  • To accommodate all passengers, aisle width increases from 32 inches to 34 inches, and there is an added designation of a priority seating area.
  • Improved lighting and privacy screens in the vestibule area.
  • Two dynamic LCD route maps and four video screens in each car allow customers to easily track train locations and station names.
  • High-tech automated public address systems and closed circuit television cameras for added safety and security.

Metro currently has a fleet of more than 1,140 rail cars divided into series 1000 through 6000.

As the Examiner reported earlier this fall, Metro anticipated that the opening of the first phase of the Silver Line extension would be delayed by three months -- to an undetermined date in the spring of 2014. The rail extension is being built by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.