"Silverliner V's Are Returning to Service" - by Frank Tatnall

Silverliner V's Are Returning to Service
But SEPTA Must Deal with City Transit Strike

As October drew to a close, SEPTA had completed repairs to about 90 of its missing Silverliner V cars. This brought the number of available seats almost to where it was prior to the withdrawal of the 120 Silverliner V's in early July, following discovery of potentially dangerous cracks in their truck assemblies. Even though the entire Silverliner V fleet may not be in service until mid-November, some 25 leased MARC coaches remain available to fill the gap left by the sidelined MU's. All refitting work on the Silverliners is being carried out at the Overbrook and Wayne Electric shops.

The wild card in SEPTA's hand was the looming transit strike set for 12:01 AM on Tuesday, November 1, which would force many thousands of additional riders onto the Regional Rail system every day. As advertised, the 4,700 members of Transport Workers Union Local 234 did walk out for the first time in seven years, shutting down all subway-elevated, bus and trolley service in the city. Regional Rail engineers, conductors, mechanics and station employees are represented by different unions and continued to work, but were forced to deal with much heavier passenger loads. The extra MARC equipment, hauled by borrowed Amtrak locomotives, helped to move the increased traffic. SEPTA's strategy of collecting tickets at the stairways in center city stations during afternoon rush hours was still in effect, thus relieving crews of the task. It was hoped, of course, that the strike would end quickly as would the severe congestion on Regional Rail.

On Monday, October 3, SEPTA officially returned to full Regional Rail service as shown in the June 19 timetables, with the caveat that some trains might have shorter consists than usual. In the three-month period since early July, the system had operated with a series of "interim" (i.e., reduced) schedules on all lines, as passengers often experienced crowded trains and fewer cars. (Cynwyd riders were bused to and from 30th Street Station during the summer, but train service has been restored.) The only timetable to be reissued was the Media-Elwyn effective October 2, which reflects the restoration of rail service over the entire line following completion of the Crum Creek bridge project in early September.

While it seems assured that the MARC equipment will stay on SEPT A for a while longer, the eight-car set borrowed from NJ Transit departed for home after its final trip on Friday, October 14. It had been assigned to Trenton line service. The Amtrak Keystone trainset used in Newark morning service and on Bryn Mawr locals in the afternoon was returned during the third week of October, but four other ACS-64 electric locomotives continue in service on SEPTA. (Amtrak will need them back for the Thanksgiving rush.) During the week of October 24, MARC cars hauled by Amtrak power were operating on rush-hour Paoli-Thorndale trains  #s 9524-9526-9506-9538 in the morning and #s 9547- 9559-9561-1565 in the afternoon.

In an effort to recover from the dismal summer, SEPTA last month launched a campaign to lure back the thousands of regular riders who gave up on the railroad during the emergency. SEPTA reported that overall RRD ridership dropped 14.8 percent over the three months of reduced service, costing it more than $7 million in revenue. Deputy General Manager Richard Burnfield said that the Authority would focus its efforts on offering convenient schedules and improved reliability. The fare increase originally set for last July 1 has been postponed until next year, giving at least some relief to the many inconvenienced riders. But this action was due mainly to the introduction of the SEPTA Key electronic fare collection system on the transit side. It is planned to extend SEPTA Key to Regional Rail during 2017.

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by Frank Tatnall