SEPTA: Silverliner Vs to Begin Returning to Service in Late August

Manufacture of replacement equalizer beams will start next week. Express bus routes will also be added soon.

SEPTA says the first of the sidelined Silverliner V railcars should be back in service the week of Aug. 21.

SEPTA says the first of the sidelined Silverliner V railcars should be back in service the week of Aug. 21.

The first of the sidelined Silverliner V Regional Rail cars should return to service starting the week of August 21st, SEPTA general manager Jeffrey Knueppel announced this afternoon.

Knueppel said that manufacturer Hyundai Rotem and SEPTA would decide on a final design for the replacement equalizer beams for the cars this weekend and award the contracts for their manufacture next week.

The replacement beams will be plate steel like the originals were, but the design of the feet will be different based on the results of analysis SEPTA, Hyundai Rotem, and contractor LTK performed on the defective beams. Hyundai Rotem has already ordered the plate steel for the new beams so that manufacturing can begin quickly.

Once the manufacturing has begun, SEPTA anticipates that 10 cars a week will be returned to service beginning August 21st. If repairs continue on that schedule, the entire 120-car fleet will be back in service by November 12th. In the meantime, SEPTA is leasing additional passenger cars from MARC and Amtrak that will bring the total number of leased railcars in SEPTA service from 28 to 40. Knueppel said that with the additional leased cars in service, the agency could resume a normal weekday Regional Rail schedule by mid-October. He went on to add that as “production picks up steam as the schedule advances,” all the cars might be back in service earlier than projected as of now.

Knueppel said that the loss of the Silverliner Vs last month has cost the agency about $200,000 in lost fare revenue due to refunds and reduced Regional Rail ridership as well as $600,000 in leasing costs, a figure he said would rise to about $1 million per month by Labor Day. While Knueppel said that the agency would have to implement some cost-cutting moves in order to keep its budget for the fiscal year in balance, its contract with Hyundai Rotem contains provisions that will allow the agency to recover costs arising from railcar defects. “Our lawyers will be very busy,” he said. “There’s a lot in the contract that protects us.”

Fare increases that would otherwise have occurred this year were canceled because of the rollout of the SEPTA Key payment system, but because of the contract protections, there should be no effect on fares before the next fiscal year begins on July 1, 2017. Kneuppel did say that SEPTA was fortunate to have this problem arise at the very start of its fiscal year, though.

SEPTA will conduct fatigue tests on the two replacement designs before choosing which one it will use. Knueppel said that fatigue tests, metallurgical tests, computer models and analysis of the design and manufacture of the defective beams revealed that a combination of design flaws and deviations from the manufacturing specifications led to the beams’ early failure. From the test data, he said, “we’ve learned how to produce a great equalizer beam with a longer service life.”

The plate steel equalizer beams used on the Silverliner V cars have been in widespread use on railroad locomotives for decades, but Knueppel said that this was the first time they had been used on any passenger railcars SEPTA ordered. Forged steel beams like those found on the Silverliner IV and earlier cars, he said, were heavier and took longer to make, which is why SEPTA and other agencies were moving toward plate steel beams.

Jeff Hyer, marketing and business development manager at Hyundai Rotem, said that data from SEPTA’s tests were being passed on to Denver’s Regional Transportation District, the only other agency to order cars of this design, so that it could monitor the performance of the beams on its cars.

Knueppel also praised the work SEPTA maintenance personnel have been doing since the cars were removed from service. “Our people are doing an enormous job keeping the 205 cars we now have in service,” he said.

In addition to further adjustments in Regional Rail schedules as leased cars are added and the Silverliner V cars return to service, SEPTA is also planning on launching five express bus routes that will ferry Regional Rail passengers to Fern Rock and AT&T stations on the Broad Street Line. No details about the routes or when they would begin service were released at the news conference, but SEPTA said that it would announce those plans soon.

Knueppel advised riders to keep tabs on service changes at SEPTA’s contingency service website.

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