For SEPTA, the hits just keep coming.
This time, literally, as the newly designed equalizer beams — the stabilizer part being replaced due to cracks found earlier this summer on a majority of the 120 relatively new Silverliner V cars — were causing “minimal, occasional contact between old and new components,” according to a SEPTA press release issued Monday morning.
The release blamed the problem on a “clearance issue.” SEPTA Chief Press Officer Andrew Bush explained the issue more fully in an email to PlanPhilly: “occasionally there was contact between the head of the pin on the pinned foot (new) and the existing truck (old).” The replacement beam’s design is being modified to make the head of the pin flush with the foot to provide the necessary clearance.
The design modification means that SEPTA will once again sideline the 18 Silverliner V rail cars that had been repaired and placed back into service. That will cause additional delays this week. SEPTA and Hyundai Rotem, the rail car manufacturer, pulled all 18 after a joint inspection Saturday morning. The statement says that the modification to the feet supporting the new equalizer beams at both ends was made quickly, and that cars with the once-again redesigned beams would be available for service later this week.
SEPTA’s press release said that the design modification would have minimal impact on the schedule to return Regional Rail service back to normal. A return to normal weekday schedules is still planned for October 3rd or October 10th “at the latest.” SEPTA is supplementing their depleted regional rail fleet with vehicles leased from other, nearby commuter railroads. The authority still hopes to have all 120 Silverliner V cars back into service before December.
The cracked equalizer beam defect sidelined a third of SEPTA’s regional rail fleet starting 4th of July weekend, preventing the authority from meeting rush hour demand over the summer. With school’s return and the end of summer vacations, commuter demand on the regional rail system is expected to increase. However, SEPTA’s attempts to meet those demands by providing an alternative express bus service has attracted limited ridership.
Regional Rail ridership plummeted this summer, costing SEPTA at least $2.5 million in lost revenues so far, plus $1 million to lease extra trains, and another $100,000 a week to run the express buses. While SEPTA’s contract with Hyundai Rotem provides for liquidated damages of $200 per day per railcar when a defect like this keeps the trains out of service, lawyers for both parties will likely negotiate, and perhaps litigate, a final settlement in the coming months. Busch said the added costs of this design modification would fall on Hyundai Rotem.
This article will be updated as PlanPhilly receives additional information from SEPTA.