Philadelphia

Partitions Return to Downtown Stations as SEPTA Braces for Overwhelming Evening Rush

Hundreds of SEPTA Regional Rail commuters got an early start on their evening rides from Center City stations Tuesday and transit officials planned to use partitions at downtown stations to handle peak travel on the first day of the system's much-shrunken fleet.

The yellow chain-linked partitions, which longtime SEPTA rail riders will remember from a labor strike in 2009, will help officials control how many commuters get on at the city's outbound 30th Street, Suburban, and Jefferson East stations, the transit agency's General Manager Jeff Knueppel said.

He also warned day two may be even tougher for commuters.

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"It could be a little worse tomorrow. I wish I didn't have to say it," Knueppel said.[[385607481,C]]

SEPTA management has just begun digging into what led to crippling defects in the Regional Rail system's newest 120 train cars, called Silverliner Vs. All 120 have been taken out of service, which led to long waits at numerous stations during the morning commute and several instances of full trains forced to bypass some stations.

Knueppel described the defect as "a fatigue crack" in massive steel beams on the underbelly of the train cars.

The manufacturer of the cars, South Korea-based Hyundai Rotem, has flown in numerous engineers to begin examining the cracks with SEPTA officials and devising a plan to fix the cars. A SEPTA spokesman said earlier Tuesday that the structures with the crack are part of the cars' suspension systems and are under warranty.The first of the cracks, which have been found in 115 of the 120 cars, was uncovered by an attentive SEPTA conductor Friday. He noticed the Silverliner V leaning to one side. An inspection by mechanics revealed the crack.[[385609741,C]]

Knueppel confirmed the agency has discussed borrowing train cars from NJ Transit, but that no agreement is yet in place. He said officials are also already discussing with other railroad systems that operate in the region about space to begin repairs of the $274 million worth of out-of-commission cars. Hyundai Rotem does have a manufacturing plant in South Philadelphia.

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