SEPTA: Working hard to restore fleet of Silverliner V Regional Rail cars

SEPTA General Manager Jeffrey Knueppel announced details on the transit company's effort to restore its 120 defective Silverliner V rail cars that represent about a third of its Regional Rail fleet. Some of its sidelined rail cars are back in service following repairs.

The significant structural defect was discovered just before July 4. SEPTA maintenance workers found a slight lean in one car, caused by a failed end of a 350-pound equalizer beam. A crack had formed at one end of the beam, affecting its suspension system. Then, inspectors found fatigue cracks on almost all other Silverliner V cars.

Thursday morning, at PennFab, Inc. in Bensalem, Knueppel revealed lots of technical details about the production cycle. He said 340 of 480 beams have already cut. Then, trucks take beams and equipment all over to prepare for the next phase, which is magnetic particle testing. That's when they make sure there are no cracks are any other issues.

As of now, Knueppel reports 23 total finished beams. Since each rail car has two trucks and each truck has two axles and two nine-foot equalizer beams, ten trucks are finished. Divided by two, that means five train cars are ready for service. They started picking up passengers from Fox Chase at 8:49am Thursday.

Knueppel said the agency has followed "a very aggressive return-to-service schedule" and expects a return to a regular weekday schedule in early October. But it's projecting the fleet will return to full service by mid-November.

Since the trouble started in July, there have been 20 percent fewer Regional Rail riders, but officials think may are using alternate services. Also, the number of Regional Rail riders has jumped 50 percent since 2000, and SEPTA will be looking to get them back.

SEPTA has certainly taken a financial hit. In July, there was an estimated $2.5 million revenue loss. Leasing rail cars from other agencies cost $600,000 in July and August will be probably be the same.

This all comes as SEPTA expects more riders starting Tuesday, after the long holiday weekend. At that time, vacations should be ending and more students will be traveling.

Tuesday is the day SEPTA's planned to start new supplemental express buses. They'll cost $100,000 per week.