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WMATA's third rail power connections improperly installed, NTSB says

In a recommendation released on Monday, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that some some of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's (WMATA) third rail electrical connections were not properly constructed and installed.

The issues, which the NTSB said require "immediate action," could lead to fire- and smoke-related events.

The safety recommendation is part of the NTSB's ongoing investigation of the WMATA smoke-related incident on Jan. 12 that left one person dead and 80 others injured.

The connections' inadequate installation can allow moisture and contaminants to enter the components. This can lead to electrical short circuiting, which in turn could result in fire and smoke events, NTSB officials said in a press release.

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 engineering design specifications.

"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," said NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart in a statement.

An investigation of a separate smoke event occurring on Feb. 11 revealed that cable connectors were missing "sealing sleeves" designed to keep moisture and other contaminants away from the high-voltage conductors, NTSB officials said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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