SEPTA commuters cope with overcrowded trains, brush fire

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- SEPTA commuters not only had to deal with overcrowded trains Wednesday afternoon, but a brush fire that created even more delays.

The brush fire was located between Overbrook and Bryn Mawr stations and resulted in delays on the Paoli-Thorndale Line.

Transportation officials in Philadelphia said more commuters boarded trains earlier Wednesday due to rail car shortages.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) took 120 regional rail cars out of service because of structural defects. Until the authority can lease equipment from other states, it's streamlining some routes and urging commuters to find other ways to get into Center City Philadelphia.

Spokeswoman Heather Redfern said riders Wednesday morning were catching trains earlier than they did Tuesday.

Despite that, the authority reported a few trains running 10 to 14 minutes late as the morning rush got underway, but no major delays.

SEPTA said cracks were discovered Friday night in beams in the suspension system on its fleet of Hyundai Rotem-made Silverliner V rail coaches. Only five of the 120 cars were found to be without problems.

While some commuters on Tuesday switched to the bus or other means of transportation, others dealt with delayed and packed trains.

An Action News viewer, Scott Vega, sent Action News video taken Tuesday on the Jefferson station platform. It shows a police officer telling people they couldn't stand between train cars because the doors had to be able to close.
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An Action News viewer sent us video of a police officer telling people they can?t stand between train cars.

"I just got out of work, and I was waiting for any train heading towards Melrose Park," Vega told Action News. "I've never seen so many people on the platform, and it was hot."

"It made it difficult to get in after a long weekend," said Lynne Suher, who left home 40 minutes earlier than normal for her ride to the city from the suburbs. "But it seems like some people have off this week because of the holiday so we'll see how bad it gets."

South Korean manufacturer Hyundai Rotem began assembling the Silverliner V cars at a south Philadelphia factory after contracting with SEPTA in 2006.
The transit union said Tuesday the transit agency knew about the problem for at least a month, a claim which SEPTA disputed.

SEPTA has hired consultants to pinpoint the source of the problem, which SEPTA General Manager Jeff Knueppel said could be a design flaw, bad materials or faulty workmanship.

Hyundai Rotem spokesman Andy Hyer said the manufacturer is working "literally around the clock to get the cars back into service as soon as possible, safely and soundly." The company is investigating the cause of the defects and will determine the measures it will take next after talking with SEPTA, Hyundai Rotem said in a statement from its headquarters in Uiwang, South Korea.

At least one other transit authority in the U.S. has begun inspecting some of its rail cars since the train issues in Philadelphia came to light.

Denver's mass transit agency is taking a closer look at similar Hyundai Rotem coaches used in its airport service. The newer cars are about 5,000 pounds lighter and have a different weight distribution.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which primarily uses a model of coach much different from Philadelphia's version, said it's inspecting two of its older Hyundai coaches.

SEPTA said it would provide refunds and credits for weekly and monthly regional rail pass customers as a result of the rail cars being taken out of service.

Philadelphia's regional rail system typically transports about 65,000 riders each way per day. With 13,000 fewer seats, the trains carried about 35,000 to 40,000 people on Tuesday. Trains were put on a modified Saturday schedule until further notice with additional rush-hour service.

Ongoing updates for service enhancement and modifications are available at

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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