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Early-morning Metro riders on the Blue Line on April 14 the will be treated to an unfamiliar sight: brand-new railcars.
Shortly after 7 a.m. on April 14, the first 7000-series Metro train will depart the Franconia-Springfield station. The event marks the culmination of a five-year process to introduce the newest series of railcars and replace some of the system’s badly outdated cars.
Metro has ordered 528 of the 7000-series cars, enough to replace all of the oldest railcars, the 1000 series, and the 4000 series, as well as expand the size of Metro’s fleet by 128 railcars. Metro also has an option to buy 220 more cars if it can secure funding by mid-year—a hurdle Metro says it expects to overcome, with the regional jurisdictions indicating they’re inclined to support the purchase.
The 1000 series has been around since Metro started running in 1976. A federal investigation into the deadly 2009 Metro Red Line crash found serious safety risks in the 1000-series cars and urged Metro to replace them. The first 7000-series cars will reportedly add Silver Line capacity, before additional cars begin to replace the 1000 series.
While the current series of railcars are often mixed and matched, the 7000 series will exist only in trains made up entirely of the new cars.
The 7000 series offers a number of new features, including wider aisles and enhanced digital displays. But given Metro’s troubled safety record in recent years—most recently with a smoke-filled train that left one passenger dead and sent more than 80 to the hospital—agency officials are emphasizing the 7000 series’ safety improvements.
“Safety must always be at the forefront of everything we do, and that is exactly what this investment in our railcar fleet is all about,” Metro Board Chair Mort Downey said in a statement. “The 7000-series cars represent a significant improvement in safety, reliability and rider comfort, and on behalf of the Metro Board of Directors, I look forward to welcoming our customers aboard in less than three weeks’ time.”
Here’s a video Metro released to give a preview of the 7000 series:
Photos via WMATA