LANHAM, Md. (WNEW) — Five years after the catastrophic Metro Red Line crash that left nine people dead and dozens more injured, the transit system will once again be using computer-driven trains.

A National Transportation Safety Board report said a malfunction of the automatic train operation (ATO) system was the direct cause of the June 2009 crash, which happened when a train rear-ended another at full speed between the Takoma and Fort Totten stations.

In the years since the crash, faulty and aging equipment has been replaced and operators have run trains manually while a new automatic system has been developed and tested.

In early October, computers will take over the operation of six Red Line trains during non-peak hours, Metro General Manager Richard Sarles says.

The Red Line will be fully ATO-operated by February. The Red Line is the first to return to the automatic operation because it doesn’t share tracks with any other lines. Computer-driven trains are expected to be operating the entire Metro system by fall 2017.

Operators will still be on trains, but they will be in charge of opening and closing doors and making announcements. The operators will also have the ability to override the automation if there’s an emergency. But it will be software running the trains, controlling acceleration and braking.

Train operators will be trained to work with the new system during off-peak hours. Up to 75 percent of them have never worked with an ATO system.

At a meeting at Metro headquarters Wednesday, Deputy GM Rob Troup told WNEW transportation reporter Kris Ankarlo that the change will mean “less herky-jerky motions because of acceleration and deceleration.”

WNEW’s Kris Ankarlo contributed to this report. Follow him and WNEW on Twitter.


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