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The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) late last week unveiled a multi-pronged improvement program for its commuter-rail service. The announcement came after months of train delays and overcrowding due to a reduced fleet. The agency in July pulled 120 Silverliner V cars from service because of a structural defect; the cars account for about a third of SEPTA's fleet.As part of the improvement program, the agency plans to purchase 45 new bi-level cars to increase capacity. SEPTA will begin introducing the new vehicles in December 2019. In addition, 15 new locomotives are expected to begin rolling out in March 2018.The agency also is analyzing long-term financing options to advance the procurement of Silverliner VI cars to replace the Silverliner IV fleet.Other goals of the program include refining schedules to address travel demand and on-time performance, improving real-time communications, maintaining a state of good repair for stations and infrastructure, and "redefining" partnerships with Amtrak and other regional train operators, according to SEPTA's website.Forty-seven percent of SEPTA's Regional Rail trains are directly controlled by Amtrak dispatchers at some point on their journey, according to the agency. To improve its working relationship with Amtrak, the agency has pledged to hold biweekly meetings with the national passenger railroad, discuss current issues and evaluate long-term options for better coordination of each entity's respective services.SEPTA has launched a "microsite" to keep riders updated on the program's various initiatives."The best place to start this rebuilding effort is to clearly articulate our commitment to make significant changes and improvements to our Regional Rail operations and present the work we've already done to develop and rollout our comprehensive Regional Rail Service Improvement strategy," SEPTA officials said in a letter to customers dated Dec. 2.
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