RICHARD WHITE has a problem. As General Manager of the Washington DC’s metro network, now nearing completion after 23 years, he saw a 70% increase in train failures in March and April compared to February. At the same time, daily ridership hit an all-time-high of 617000 passengers on April 7. The next day rider dissatisfaction boiled over, and mutinous passengers brought the network to a stand by refusing to leave a disabled Blue line train at Smithsonian station.

The WMATA fleet has been stretched by the opening of new extensions ahead of the delivery of extra stock now on order. Most faults have been traced to the door and brake controls, and White says they have shown up as a result of different driving techniques being used. WMATA switched over to manual operation at the beginning of March following the discovery of four faults in the ATO equipment, which must remain out of use until a full safety investigation has been completed.

Following a board meeting on April 9, White announced a $47·3m rectification programme to improve reliability. All 298 of the original Rohr cars will have their electronic brake controls replaced by June 2001 at a cost of $6·6m. Another $4·2m will fund new door controls for the Rohr cars and 366 Breda cars by February 2002. The rest will accelerate a refurbishment programme that has seen 300 cars rebuilt at a cost of $220m.