Metro GM: Train Operators Turning Off Emergency Intercoms

By Mark Segraves
|  Thursday, Jul 11, 2013  |  Updated 8:03 PM EDT
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We are learning new details about Metro's problems with  emergency intercoms on trains. Our I-Team was the first to report the story of how the intercoms failed to work properly, and now there's a new twist.  News4's Mark Segraves has the latest.

Mark Segraves

We are learning new details about Metro's problems with emergency intercoms on trains. Our I-Team was the first to report the story of how the intercoms failed to work properly, and now there's a new twist. News4's Mark Segraves has the latest.

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During Metro's monthly board meeting, General Manager Richard Sarles announced some Metro train operators had been disabling the emergency intercom systems on some trains.

Earlier this year, Metro officials acknowledged they have known about malfunctioning emergency intercoms since 2009, but have failed to fixed the problem until now. News4 I-Team uncovered documentation of more than 150 cases where passengers in distress called for help aboard trains and got no answer.

Sarles said at the time, Metro had bigger safety issues that had to be fixed first.

"We focused on roll back protection, door operator issues and brakes issues ... most critical issues," Sarles said Thursday.

The investigation revealed some new, digital radio systems for contacting emergency personnel had been interfering with intercoms, so some drivers have simply been turning the emergency intercoms off.

"We did find that some drivers were holding down the button so you couldn't have communication and we told them to stop that," Sarles said. "If we can show an operator was interfering with the system, they will be disciplined."

The radio interference that prompted drivers to turn the intercom off impacts approximately 150 of the system's nearly 1,200 cars. Metro has reportedly stopped installing the new radios until they can fix the interface issues.

They said a more permanent fix for the malfunctioning intercoms will be put in place in about two months.

MORE COVERAGE ON NBCWASHINGTON.COM

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