New Jersey

Structural Cracks Latest Hiccup for SEPTA's ‘Most Advanced' Car

Tuesday's rush hour commutes were a rude awakening on day one of a regional rail slowdown by SEPTA that could last for months.

NBC10 learned the service disruption is the latest hiccup for the Silverliner V, which was supposed to be SEPTA's most advanced car. 

At 30th Street Station around midday, the departure board said it all. A big chunk of the regional lines were delayed as commuters and the authority itself grapple with the sudden loss of nearly one-third of the regional rail car fleet, and few answers.

"I guess I'll start driving," said Suzanne Leaming from Chestnut Hill. "I'm not waiting an hour for another train. It's just crazy! It's too much."

SEPTA General Manager Jeff Kneuppel said the morning frustrations of over-crowded cars and skipped stops may grow through the week as more people return to work, especially for riders at stops closer to the city.

"Lot of people working on trying to determine: what happened? How it happened? What possible fixes can we make?" Kneuppel said during an afternoon news conference.

On the first day back from the 4th of July weekend, regional rails carried about 60-percent of typical weekday volume. And SEPTA is scrambling to figure out why the critical equalizer beams keep cracking right near the weld point.

"It can be workmanship issues with the welds," Kneuppel said. "It can be that that wasn't the correct design to have a weld in this location."

NBC10 confirmed the Silverliner V rail cars were assembled at the South Philly Hyundai Rotem plant -- a South Korean company with local workers.

The cracks are just the latest hiccup for the cars intended to be SEPTA's "most advanced."

In 2010 and 2011, the factory fell far behind on SEPTA's order, suffering heavy financial penalties for the delays. The company's Silverliner V's are also used in Colorado where officials are now checking for the same problem.

We made repeated attempts to talk with Hyundai Rotem about the manufacturer's assembly processing and the sourcing of their parts. They responded late in the day saying only that they are working closely with SEPTA. 

Meanwhile, SEPTA is encouraging commuters who can, to use subways and buses or to drive to designated parking spots and catch transit from there. The agency is even trying to borrow train cars from New Jersey Transit and Amtrak.

But the impact of loaners will be limited.

"We're hoping to add more vehicles and equipment," Kneuppel said. "It's not a tremendous amount of equipment we're talking about because no one is sitting on a stockpile of cars and locomotives."

The borrowing issue is about capacity. NJ Transit said technically all of their rail cars would work on SEPTA's tracks, it's just not clear how many extra they have. 

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