SEPTA, Philly looking for answers to recent safety issues

 Passengers board the subway at 30th Street Station. (Emma Lee/WHYY, file)

Passengers board the subway at 30th Street Station. (Emma Lee/WHYY, file)

An investigation is continuing into what caused last month’s accident involving two out-of-service SEPTA rail cars at 69th Street Terminal. The Market-Frankford line collision injured four rail employees.

It occurred after a rash of bad luck for SEPTA. In July, more than 100 rail cars were sidelined due to a structural defect. There was a trolley collision in January, and, in early February, the Philadelphia transit agency removed 60 cars from the Market-Frankford line because of support-beam cracks.

City Council plans to hold a hearing to discuss SEPTA safety.

“The focus of the hearing is going to be on what has gone wrong and, more importantly, how is SEPTA fixing it,” PlanPhilly reporter Jim Saksa said. “They’re also bringing in the Office of Emergency Management, and they want to talk about how Philadelphia, as a whole, would respond to a catastrophic derailment or some sort of accident.”

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SEPTA officials have said they welcome the hearing as an opportunity to demonstrate that passenger safety is a top priority. The transit authority makes the argument that it catches problems before they become deadly, Saksa said. 

In September, a New Jersey Transit train derailed and crashed into the Hoboken station, killing one woman. Speed was determined to be a factor in that crash.

SEPTA’s trains have implemented “positive train control,” which will help prevent that sort of accident.

“SEPTA’s actually one of the few commuter rail agencies that has done so,” Saksa said. “There was a federal law that was passed in 2008 that required everyone to get this done by the end of 2015.

“Congress extended that, but SEPTA came in and got it done a little late from the original deadline, but still significantly better than New Jersey Transit.”

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