NTSB recommends 'immediate action' on DC Metro electrical fixes

NTSB recommends 'immediate action' on DC Metro electrical fixes

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is recommending that the Washington, D.C. Metrorail subway system take "immediate action" to fix electrical problems that were exposed by a deadly smoke incident earlier this year. 

The NTSB said Monday its investigation into a January incident, when a passenger died after a halted train experiencing an electrical issue filled with smoke, showed Metro's electrical equipment "were improperly constructed and installed" and missing protective sleeves that are designed to keep moisture away from underground tracks.   

The agency said Metro should move quickly to fix the electrical problems to prevent future smoke or fire incidents in subway tunnels in and around the nation's capital. 

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"The NTSB has learned that WMATA [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority] does not have a program to ensure that the sleeves, which are in its design specifications, are used and installed properly," the agency said in a statement.

"To remedy these hazards, the NTSB has asked WMATA to promptly develop and implement a program to ensure that all power cable connector assemblies are constructed and installed in accordance with its engineering design specifications," the NTSB statement continued.

Since the Jan. 12 incident, WMATA, the agency that operates the Metro system has come under fire from federal and local officials who have accused the agency of having a lax safety culture. 

More than 80 other passengers who were trapped in the smoke-filled Metrorail train in January were injured, and the agency has experienced other lower-profile smoke issues since then. 

NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said the electrical problems that prompted his agency to make the recommendations are serious and should be addressed quickly. 

“We are hopeful that WMATA management will act on this recommendation in a timely manner so that the hazards we identified can be mitigated as soon as possible," he said. 

NTSB officials originally attributed the smoke in Metro’s Yellow Line tunnel to an “electrical arcing incident." 

The incident resulted in Metro’s first passenger fatality since a high-profile crash on the Red Line in 2009 that killed nine people and led to widespread changes at the capital-area transit agency.

Lawmakers who represent districts in the metropolitan Washington area have sharply criticized the agency for the deadly smoke incident this year. 

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) pushed Metro officials Monday to act quickly on the NTSB's recommendations. 

"We can’t afford to wait until there’s another fire & smoke incident on #Metro," he tweeted. "@wmata needs to fix this immediately."