A late arrival for the last of SEPTA’s Silverliner V cars

Posted: September 07, 2012

SEPTA's final group of new Silverliner V railcars won't arrive this month as scheduled, because of a lack of parts.

Hyundai Rotem Co., the South Korean manufacturer that is assembling the railcars at a South Philadelphia factory, is two years behind in delivering the 120 new cars and faces millions of dollars in penalties.

SEPTA had hoped to get the last of the cars in passenger service this month.

SEPTA has received 110 cars, spokeswoman Jerri Williams said Thursday, with five more expected by month's end. But the last five cars won't be delivered until missing parts arrive and are installed, which is likely to be in early October, Williams said.

So far, 101 of the new cars are in revenue service, helping to reduce chronic overcrowding on some Regional Rail lines. Nine other cars are still being tested by SEPTA workers.

Assembly crews at the Hyundai Rotem plant are waiting for parts such as heated cab windows, drain plugs, and destination-sign equipment, Williams said.

The unfinished cars are "99 percent complete, and when the parts come in, it will just be a day's work to finish," she said.

The new cars were ordered to replace 73 Silverliner II's and III's, some dating from the 1960s. The last of those cars was retired in late June.

Delays have plagued the Silverliner V's from the beginning.

The contract for the new cars was first awarded in 2004, thrown out because of competitors' complaints, and awarded again in 2006, when SEPTA ordered the 120 cars from Hyundai Rotem for $274 million.

The total cost, including spare parts and associated training and management, is $330 million.

Production snags - including material delays, design flaws, labor-management issues, and workmanship problems - put the delivery of the new cars far behind schedule.

The manufacturer, a subsidiary of the South Korean automaker Hyundai, had built cars for foreign transit systems, but SEPTA's order was the company's first by a U.S. transit agency.

Hyundai Rotem has been assembling 117 of the railcars in the factory in South Philadelphia. The first three cars were built in South Korea and put into service by SEPTA in October 2010, a year and a half behind schedule.

Hyundai Rotem is liable for penalties of $200 for each day each car is late.

With the new cars and its existing Silverliner IV cars, SEPTA will have a fleet of about 400 cars to carry passengers on its 13 Regional Rail lines. Passengers have faced overcrowding on rush-hour trains for several years, because of shortages caused by increasing ridership, delays in new car deliveries, and removal of cars for repairs or maintenance.

SEPTA is selling its old Silverliners to a Newark scrap dealer for about $23,000 each.

Contact Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or pnussbaum@phillynews.com .

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