Repairs, service cuts begin on Manayunk/Norristown rail line today

Beginning today, riders on SEPTA’s Manayunk/Norristown regional rail line will notice some changes as two multi-year projects get underway that will replace aging wires, switches and signals.

The work is designed to minimize the potential for outages like one that crippled the line for two days in March of this year.

As a result of the work, the line will operate on a single track between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on a modified schedule, with trains departing every two hours rather than every hour as they do now, said Jeffrey Knueppel, SEPTA’s chief engineer.

 The daytime service will be affected for about nine months, and crews will work during nights and weekends.

More than 5,000 riders board the Manayunk/Norristown line each day. SEPTA canceled six trains with the new schedule to accommodate the single-track component of the catenary project. Nearly 500 passengers will be impacted by the altered train schedule.

The overhead catenary lines that supply electric power to the trains through a pantograph mounted on top of the cars were installed in 1933, and some of the contact wires are worn away by more than half their original mass, he said. The $5.8 million in wire work on the 14.6-mile line – once called the R6 Norristown – will begin Monday and run through June, 2013.

Originally, similar work was scheduled to begin on the Media/Elwyn line first. But the schedule was juggled after a massive, multi-line failure caused by a train that snagged and pulled down more than a half-mile long section of overhead wire on March 3. It took two days to get the line fully operational again.

“It’s time, and we know it’s time, and we are aggressively tackling this problem,” Knueppel said. “We knew that the worst catenary line we had was on the Norristown line” but the transit agency originally scheduled the Media/Elwyn work first because it would cause less service disruption.

Also on the Manayunk/Norristown line, work will begin in January on a three-year, $29.2 million project to replace aging signals and install automatic train controls, but that work should not result in service disruptions, Knueppel said.

Contact Amy Z. Quinn at azquinn@planphilly.com

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.