If Old Man Winter hasn’t been hard enough on SEPTA, construction problems have combined to create a perfect storm for Regional Rail riders.
The agency’s rail lines have been plagued by overcrowding and delays. Much of the problem involved severe weather crippling a fleet that is one of the oldest in the country and part is due to delays at the South Philadelphia plant finishing the new Silverliner V’s. Complaints from riders prompted General Manager Joe Casey to apologize in a letter on SEPTA’s website.
“It’s certainly something we are addressing and just to be patient with us,” Casey said yesterday of his message to riders. “Obviously, we hoped to have more Silverliner V’s in here at this time, but we don’t and the sooner we can get them out there the better we’ll be.”
SEPTA’s average rail car is 30 years old, and many of the parts have to be remade, causing the agency to be regularly short-handed. SEPTA needs 315 cars to make its scheduled runs, Casey said, but have been between 290 and 303 for several weeks. Casey said two Silverliner V’s should join the three already in service by next week and three more are being tested.
“It’s tough,” rider advocate Matthew Mitchell said. “It’s uncomfortable and the long-term solution is to get the new fleet in service, which are having their own set of problems.”
Casey: Help on the way
Casey said that manufacturer Hyundai Rotem is expected to send 27 employees from its Taiwan plant to South Philadelphia to help fix the production problems. SEPTA signed a $274 million contract for 120 rail cars.
“[The employees] are coming in February so we expect them to ramp it up. We’ll see what happens. I have my fingers crossed,” Casey said.