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

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A Message for All Regional Rail Customers

Last night, during the early part of evening rush, service had to be suspended on all Regional Rail Lines when customers on a Paoli/Thorndale Line train, disabled between Suburban and 30th Street Stations, began self-evacuating and walking in a very active track area.

The incident began at approximately 5:17 p.m. when the train, heading towards Paoli, became disabled when an overhead electrical circuit breaker was tripped and power was lost on one of the 2 outbound tracks between Suburban Station and 30th Street. With the train stopped and initial efforts to reset the circuit unsuccessful, the Control Center instructed the crew from the disabled train to inspect the cars and assess the situation.

Some riders became alarmed when they heard several loud bangs -- when the Power Dispatcher attempted to reset the circuit. Although there were no indications of emergency conditions such as smoke or fire, and no instructions from the crew to exit the train, within about 15 minutes of the start of the incident, some customers began self-evacuating and walking unescorted in an area of track used by all trains leaving and arriving in Center City.

To ensure the safety of those customers, train service for all Lines had to be suspended while Operations Personnel and SEPTA Transit Police were dispatched to assist anyone in the live track and get the several hundred customers from the disabled train onto rescue trains. The track area, from Suburban Station all the way to 30th Street, had to be thoroughly checked to ensure everyone had been cleared before service could be restored.

The immediate situation was handled within approximately 65 minutes, with no reported injuries, but the need to temporarily stop all trains at the height of evening travel caused a major system wide service disruption that monumentally inconvenienced and severely delayed thousands of customers.

Had we only been dealing with the Paoli train incident, the delays would not have been so extensive, but the situation was aggravated by an earlier catenary issue on the Media/Elwyn Line and then compounded by a signal system issue at a critical crossover switch between 30th Street and University City approximately 30 minutes after full service resumed. As a result, some customers experienced painful delays of more than 2 hours.

Unrelated to the service delays, shortly after 6:00 p.m., one of the store owners at Suburban Station set off the fire alarm - startling customers waiting for trains.

Our Train Crews, and Control Center and Station personnel are directed to keep customers informed while working to resolve the situations but the reports on how well that worked last night were mixed. This is an issue highlighted in our Regional Rail Service Improvement Program and a critical part of our service to you. We are investigating this as part of the complete after action review and will continue to work to improve communications.

We completely understand that an unexpected, loud noise in conjunction with the train stopping might create concern for customers but we ask you to please, please never take independent actions without instructions or assistance from your train personnel, other SEPTA staff, or any First Responders on the scene. What you think is a safe course of action may place you and others in even greater danger.