Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority Serving Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties

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A Message for Regional Rail Riders Concerning October 15, 2012

Sorry Doesn't Even Begin To Cover It

Mondays can be tough as people get back into the swing of the work and school week, but Monday, October 15th was an exceptionally dreadful day for SEPTA Regional Rail Customers as a result of 3 unrelated incidents.

The day started with problems on the Warminster Line. Customers who use this service know from station notices and schedule information, that for almost 6 months, we've been working on a major catenary project to replace old, circa 1930, infrastructure. Just about everything overhead related, between Roslyn and Warminster Stations have been replaced as part of this state of good repair project. With approximately 6 weeks of work left we thought we were pretty good shape. As we've discovered, once you start working on old infrastructure it can be difficult to keep everything in place and at 1:10 p.m. old supporting hardware holding up new wire decided to give up the ghost resulting in no train service for about 2.5 hours. Our Surface Transportation operation quickly mobilized shuttle service for customers traveling to Warminster, and train service was restored just in time for the evening rush hour. But the net result was an afternoon of significant inconvenience for our customers.

Just when we thought the PM rush was salvaged, at 4:25 p.m. it seems a bad car short circuited, causing damage to the overhead wire, and creating a loss of power to the southbound tracks in the tunnel between Suburban Station and 30th Street. This set off a wave of delays for some 87 trains lasting anywhere from 40 minutes to just over 1 hour. The worst of this situation were the 4 trains - the 4:25 p.m. to the Airport, the 4:36 p.m. going to Chestnut Hill West, the 4:22 p.m. going to Wilmington, and 4:29 p.m. train to Elwyn -- filled with customers - stuck in the tunnel heading to 30th Street. Despite heavy rain fall, SEPTA power and overhead crews went into action to ensure that evening rush hour train service could be restored.

Then capping everything off, there was a mechanical failure on the 4:55 p.m. Express train scheduled to go to Newark, DE.

All told, the Customer Service Center received 135 calls from Regional Rail riders wanting to know what was happening with the trains. While understandably agitated at being delayed, they reported all of the callers were courteous, which we greatly appreciate.

The cause of the power loss is still under investigation, but just as cameras on vehicles and in stations assist us when there is an incident in the system, our Control Center and Power Dispatching systems have a host of tools that enable staff to replay the events in an effort to determine the exact source of the problem.

Our goal is always to ensure that customers safely get to their destinations and that we maintain our system and vehicles in a state of good repair. When incidents occur, we work as quickly as possible to pinpoint the problem, come up with a course of action to get service back up and running, and to try and keep our customers and Transportation personnel updated on the situation. Can we always achieve these milestones? Unfortunately, no, and for those customers stuck on the trains or on a platform we apologize for the delays and inconvenience. Try as we might, we will never achieve 100% success, but we believe recent adjustments in Operations and our steadfast commitment to replace old and outdated infrastructure will help SEPTA deliver the kind of Regional Rail service we know our customer expect and deserve.