Metro knew about brake problems on its trains six years ago and did nothing about it because of its financial problems.
The lapse could have been more serious than the brake problems in December and January that disrupted train service and scared passengers as Metro rushed to check all the systems brakes, Metro Board member Mort Downey said Thursday.
Downey, who heads the board’s safety committee, startled some by disclosing that Metro had known about the failing brakes since 2006 and had failed to make speedy repairs because of severe budget problems.
“And here you had a known safety defect fall through the cracks,” he said. “Maybe nothing would have happened, maybe it would have, but this is not what we want to have.”
Downey said he doesn’t think there was an “extraordinary” risk for passengers.
“But it's not a way to run a railroad,” he said. “If something needs to get fixed, it should get fixed.”
Metro General Manager Richard Sarles, in part hired to attack millions of dollars in deferred maintenance, said only the newest brakes in the system have not yet been replaced. Ninety-eight percent have been replaced, and Metro is safe, he said.
“Service has been safe for six years,” he said. “I ride every day. We continue to run a safe service.”
He added that Metro is investing a lot more time and money in reconstructing the rail system.
Downey said he was told there aren’t other problems not getting fixed because of budget issues.
The affected brake parts should have lasted up to 35 years, but they were wearing out in as little as 10 to 15 years, according to Metro.