SEPTA shows problem that took Regional Rail trains out of service

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Riders on SEPTA's Regional Rail continue to feel the pain of having fewer cars in service. (WPVI)

It was a kind of show and tell on Thursday in Overbrook as SEPTA invited the media to a maintenance facility to see the cracks in a safety critical component that has forced the grounding of its newest most expensive trains.

We were invited to duck under a 70 ton railcar and look up as the Director of Maintenance pointed a flashlight deep in the inner workings of the car's suspension to catch a glimpse of a tiny crack at a critical weld.

"Anybody see the crack? It's pretty hard, isn't it? It is a hairline crack. We are doing our best to show you with lights and pointers, but it is in a very difficult spot," SEPTA Assistant General Manager Ron Hopkins said.

Using sharp eyes, and special dyes that turn red, SEPTA staffers have identified cracks in the wheel assemblies or trucks of most of the new trains.

SEPTA now knows what happened, where it happened, but not how and most importantly why it happened. That needs further engineering work.

Initially it was thought that the Silverliner V fleet might return to service by Labor Day, when post-summer ridership ticks up. That will not be the case.

"We will not have the fleet back by Labor Day. We're shooting for Labor Day to have cars back in service, but we want to make sure they are safe. We have of the confidence of the public that we are doing all the right things, we are showing people the amount of work we are going through," Hopkins said.

The hope is to have between five and ten cars back by Labor Day.
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