UPDATE: The SPRINTER was taken out of service Friday night, March 8, at midnight. Bus service is scheduled to replace the trains, with stops between Escondido and Oceanside. The trains will be out of service anywhere from two to four months, according to North County Transit District.
North County Transit District’s SPRINTER rail line, which runs between Escondido and Oceanside carrying 7,800 passengers a day, may be taken off the tracks for as long as four months to replace worn brake rotors.
Matthew Tucker, the executive director of the North County Transit District, said the rotors “don’t meet the standards of compliance,” but the light rail vehicles “are still safe to operate.’
California’s Public Utilities Commission identified the faulty rotors last week during an inspection, according to Tucker, and the utility commission is expected to issue a statement tomorrow.
“They don’t have the authority to shut us down,” said Tucker, “they can make a recommendation.” But ultimately, he says, North County Transit District will make the final call.
Two SPRINTER vehicles have been taken off the tracks tonight for testing. Once those tests are finished in the morning, said Tucker, the transit agency will make a decision.
If the agency decides to remove the trains, the repairs could take anywhere from “weeks to 120 days.”
The North County Transit District contracts out the maintenance and operations of SPRINTER vehicles to Veolia Transportation, which in turn contracts out to Bombardier Transportation.
To address the economic downturn in 2008, Tucker downsized North County’s operations dramatically by contracting out much of the agency’s services to private contractors. A recent inewsource investigation raised questions about the oversight of some of those contracts and the safety implications involved.
Tucker says the companies under contract failed to report the issue of the non-compliant brake rotors to North County staff when it was first discovered, and added that the California Public Utilities Commission had no other major findings during the recent inspection.
The German-manufactured SPRINTER fleet of 12 vehicles is scheduled to celebrate its fifth-year anniversary on Saturday.