Tuesday, October 21, 2008

VRE to battle 700 Phone Calls

Heard on the train yesterday "If you believe you are due an FRC [free ride] because of Thursday [night's events].... call VRE".

Apparently Thursday train 305 southbound, the one that gets into town about 5:35, had an engine fail. The conductor indicated that he didn't get home until almost midnight, which due to rail regulations, meant the crew couldn't work Friday.

According to the VRE Daily Download, train 305 was "Terminated at Franconia/Springfield due to mechanical problems." Those mechanical problems were the failure of a traction motor in the locomotive. A long standing issue for VRE passengers has been the reliability of the engines that push/pull the train sets, yet in recent years there seems to have been more emphasis on acquiring new cars. Recently Mark Roeber, VRE spokesman, attributed the 61 new cars to having "kept people on the trains" (FLS link here). A few years back, VRE did spend some money to refurbish some of the oldest engines, and had been counting on VA transportation funds to purchase new ones (the $25M that was ruled against in the courts). Plans currently have them using some of the replacement funds from the state.

Perhaps riders would have been ok with older cars if they could have gotten to and from work quicker or more consistently with newer locomotives. Oh, and don't complain to riders and taxpayers about funding a new call center for VRE phone usage, the old policy of giving FRCs to conductors seemed to work just fine.

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