PATCO 'operating on or close to schedule' despite sparks

- PATCO reports its trains “are operating on or close to schedule” after a day of trouble Tuesday. However, there appears to be what most people would consider an issue, Wednesday morning, and FOX 29 caught it on camera.

FOX 29’s Steve Keeley found sparks coming from a train near Ferry Avenue. He shot video on his own cellphone showing sparks under the moving train’s wheels, huge flashes, and the sound of the surge.

PATCO saw the video on Good Day Philadelphia and sent workers to the spot. They checked out the scene and found everything to be normal.

The DRPA transit agency went on twitter to say it happens when there’s “excessive moisture,” “is a common issue” and “poses no safety issue.” (Click picture for time-lapse photos.)

Shortly, PATCO will start running on a special Wednesday midday schedule, from 9:15am to 2:15pm.

Also Wednesday morning, there were some sudden cancelations.

This all comes after delays and canceled trains for most of Tuesday -- into the evening -- not to mention frustrated commuters.

PATCO blamed Tuesday morning’s service delays, cancelations and crowding on a series of events that removed six six-car trains from service in the span of an hour. Click here for the chain of events.

Those issues follow similar problems last week.

It explained last Thursday, Jan. 12, how “a westbound train experienced smoke coming from underneath while at the Ferry Avenue Station platform.”

Also recently, on Monday, Jan. 9, “an eastbound train experienced white smoke coming from underneath a train car while at (Camden) City Hall Station.”

PATCO is blaming a snowstorm earlier this month for the continuing service disruptions we've been reporting. It says since Jan. 7, workers have had to continuously replace traction motors and make other repairs to fix problems that snow and moisture leave behind on tracks. The agency says the transit car overhaul project is also cutting the number of cars available.

But it's working to improve service. In fact, general manager John Rink gave more specifics in this statement that both started and ended with an apology.

It’s titled Our #1 Goal: Provide Safe, Convenient and Timely Service:

“We are very sorry for our recent level of service. At PATCO, it is our number one goal to provide safe, convenient, and timely service to our customers. We know that, in recent weeks, we have failed to provide the level of service you expect and deserve. We are monitoring customer feedback and we have heard the frustration of passengers who have withstood extended wait times, crowding on our platforms and in our trains. What our customers have experienced is not the level of service we strive to provide and we continue to take steps to improve our service.

“It is important to note that we have been taking steps to maintain and repair the trains to counteract the effects of the winter weather. Since the snow storm on January 7, PATCO staff has been continuously replacing traction motors and making other repairs. A total of 21 motors have been replaced since January 8th alone. A typical motor replacement can take 6-8 hours. If we need to replace both motors, we swap the bad truck with a good spare truck. This work can take 2-3 hours, sometimes 4-6 hours if shimming is needed. During the workweek, PATCO works 3 shifts, day, mid-shift and night, working on repairs, maintenance and inspections. In addition, we scheduled overtime to continue with this work and address backlog of repairs. Over this past weekend alone, more than 500 person-hours were logged in the maintaining, inspecting, and repairing the train fleet for service on Monday.

“We truly apologize for the inconveniences you experienced and we thank you for riding PATCO.”

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