Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority Serving Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties

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SEPTA was created in 1964 and in 1984, the region's commuter rail lines came under the SEPTA umbrella. As part of this transition, the Authority inherited the assets of these Rail systems, much of which dated from the 19th century. Failures due to the age of this infrastructure have the potential to cause service delays and breakdowns in more pivotal instances - major substations and interlockings - could bring Regional Rail to a standstill. For decades the challenge has been to modernize and replace critical infrastructure in the face of significant underfunding for capital investment. Passage of State Act 89, along with funding from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), including special grants through the Emergency Relief Program for Resiliency initiatives now makes it possible to prioritize and increase the number of state of good repair and system upgrade projects.

Interlocking Reliability

  • Coordinated efforts with the Signals and Track Departments to improve switch reliability at all interlockings using a number of methods - complete replacement, rehabilitation work, increased maintenance, or a combination of these options.

  • The Interlocking Rehabilitation program replaces parts of diverse special track work layouts including: double slip switches, turnouts, crossovers, and crossing diamonds. The following types of items will be renewed based on their condition as part of the program:
    • Switch Machines
    • Switch Timbers
    • Selected steel rails, frogs, and switch points

  • Interlocking replacement currently in design for Wayne ladder. This ladder is critical to the operation of the Chestnut Hill East Branch connecting it to the Mainline. The new design will replace the complex system of double slip switches with single crossovers to provide a much more reliable and maintenance friendly infrastructure while keeping the same operational flexibility.

Wayne Interlocking Tabor Interlocking

Iron Interlocking

Arsenal Interlocking Project

The Authority plans to rebuild the mainline infrastructure on the Media/Elwyn Line, which also affects Airport and Wilmington/Newark Line services, between 30th Street Station and Arsenal Interlocking, including the Walnut Street Tunnel. As part of this multi-year, multi-disciplinary project the following work will take place:

  • Remove the existing Walnut Interlocking and straighten the rail in this location
  • Reconfigure and replace the existing Arsenal Interlocking
  • Create a new Interlocking and turn back track at Civic near University City Station
  • Replace the overhead contact system and the Overhead Catenary System structures
  • Repair/Upgrade retaining walls and structural elements inside Walnut St Tunnel
  • Repair drainage structures

Among the highlights of the Arsenal Interlocking project, scheduled to take place in August (2018), is the work to reconfigure and rebuild the high speed switches.

These improvements along with the new Civic Interlocking will provide more reliable service; make it possible to safely increase train speeds through the interlocking, and establish better maintenance windows for this critical section of Regional Rail infrastructure. The turn back track near University City will allow Operations to continue to serve the station in the event of an interruption on the system. The newly installed cross-over for the Media/Elwyn Line will complete the configuration for Arsenal interlocking.

University City - Location of
Arsenal Interlocking
Project Work
Foundation Drilling

Communications & Signal Systems


  • Improving track switch reliability at Wayne Junction
  • Improving communications and signaling reliability between Wayne Junction and Jenkintown
  • Improving signaling reliability between Civic Center and Elwyn
  • Preparing for summer Arsenal Interlocking work


  • Upgrading the fiber optic cabling network on the Doylestown, Warminster and West Trenton Lines
  • Improving the speed and reliability of the passenger communications on the Paoli/Thorndale and Trenton Lines
  • Installing a new Distributed Communications System in the SEPTA tunnels for SEPTA Police, and Philadelphia Police and Fire Department

Catenary Replacement Work

To date SEPTA in-house forces have replaced 202 Miles of Overhead Catenary.

Media/Elwyn Line Catenary Replacement between Arsenal and Cane

SEPTA in-house forces will be working day and night to replace the 1930 era Overhead Catenary System between the Secane and Arsenal interlockings using the SEPTA Wire Train. The daytime portion of the construction work will require a midday single track operation on the northern portion of the branch.

Neshaminy Line Catenary Replacement

SEPTA in-house forces will be working day and night to replace the Overhead Catenary System between Neshaminy Falls and Jenkintown on both the inbound and outbound tracks. To date, the catenary had been replaced between West Trenton and Neshaminy on the inbound track. This work includes replacing 25 miles of conductors, insulators, hangers and re-tensioning the overhead wires with a more durable .336 conductor designed to reduce failures and improve on-time performance.

Substation Rehabilitation

The Regional Railroad Division traction power substations have been in service far beyond their expected useful life. In an effort to streamline the design and construction of the traction power substations, a program was developed that will overhaul the remainder of the Regional Railroad Substations as part of a single, comprehensive overhaul program.

The current capital program will provide funds to design and construct 19 substations dividing the work into four construction packages. As part of this effort, the existing traction power substations that supply critical power to the Regional Railroad lines, along with the Static Frequency Converters (SFC) will be overhauled. The contracts call for the replacement of all major substation equipment, switching apparatuses and remote terminal units. Additionally, a fourth SFC will be added to the three already in place at Wayne Junction and a new traction and signal power substation will be built on the West Trenton Line near Woodbourne Station.

The Traction power Substation Overhaul program will have the benefit of bringing a major portion of SEPTA's traction power network into a State of Good Repair and providing a safe, reliable power infrastructure for our system for decades to come.

Railroad Substations
Completed: 8 (30th St, Doylestown, Norristown, Lenni, Morton, Jenkintown, Ambler, Wayne Junction)
Bidding & Construction
3 (Yardley, Neshaminy, Bethayres)
In Design:
8 (Lansdale, Hatboro, Portal, 12th Street, 18th Street, Woodbourne, Chestnut Hill East, Static Frequency Converters at Wayne Junction)

New Jenkintown Substation

Amtrak Substation 1A Replaced with new 30th St. Substation

Bridges & Viaducts

Crum Creek Viaduct Replacement

  • Additional bridge and viaduct replacement work completed for Cobbs, Darby, and Ridley Creek Viaducts and Chestnut Hill West Bridge 0.35
    • Slow orders removed from all of these locations

High-Level Platforms

  • High-Level Platforms important for customer travel and operational efficiencies
    • Establishes ADA access and compliance
    • Shortens dwell times at stations and improves overall travel time for customers

9th Street High Level Platform

Projects Completed:

  • Fortuna, 9th Street

Projects Currently Under Construction

  • Yardley, Exton, Levittown, Bala, Wynnefield, Secane, Paoli

Projects In Design:

  • Conshohocken, Lawndale, Ardmore, Villanova, Jenkintown, and Noble

Special Projects- Resiliency Program

Railroad Embankment Slope Stabilization

SEPTA is currently completing the second of five Railroad Embankment/Slope Stabilization projects along the Mainline including rock cuts at Elkins Park, near Old York Road, and south of Jenkintown Station. Stabilization methods being introduced include rock dowel and mesh systems, shotcrete or flowable concrete to stabilize soil pockets, geo-fabric and geo-cell systems, and low retaining walls. The final slope faces will include a slope face near Melrose Park Station and the rock formation under Limekiln Pike.

Original Condition Main Line Rock Cut at Old York Road

Main Line Rock Cut - Drilling Rock Anchors at Old York

Norristown Slope Stabilization Project

The increase in the number of severe precipitation events and the resulting flash flooding is a concern for the Authority. With the Norristown/Manayunk Line hugging the Schuylkill River, the railroad right of way is susceptible to flooding and washouts during extreme weather events and incidents of rising waters have the potential to cause substantial erosion and possible track washouts. This type of damage can cause extended periods of service delays and/or suspensions and customer inconvenience. The Norristown Slope Stabilization project will complete the design for a system to protect SEPTA right-of-way between Miquon Station (MP 10.70) and Spring Mill Station (MP 12.30) from potential shoreline failures as well as address NEPA and other permitting and/or environmental clearances as required. Through this project, three prioritized areas will be stabilized utilizing a retaining wall system.

Flooding at Spring Mill Station

Right of Way Along the Manayunk/Norristown Line

Signal Power Prototype

With FTA grant funding available as a result of the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, SEPTA is designing a method to replace 99 miles of open signal cable with localized power sources including localized PECO feeds, solar panel, and battery backup systems. The resiliency of the Railroad Signal Power System can be significantly improved by providing power through alternate and redundant sources rather than maintain the existing open lined cable system that can be damaged during extreme weather events and disrupt service.

Main Line

Chestnut Hill West Interlocking - Prototype Solar Panels Installed on Existing Signal House

Tie Renewal, Surfacing, and Tree Trimming

  • Work recently completed includes the Mainline between Wayne and Carmel (Glenside Station) Interlockings.

  • The work scheduled to be completed this year will double the normal productivity for the Track Department through utilization of a 3rd Party Contractor in addition to In-house personnel and equipment.
    • In-house work will be focused on the critical areas of the Mainline between Gwynedd and Dale Interlockings, and West and Kay Interlockings.
    • 3rd Party contract work will focus on two branch lines: Doylestown and Warminster

  • In total the work to be accomplished this year will include the following:
    • Renewal of approximately 28,000 ties
    • Surfacing of approximately 35 miles of track
    • Tree trimming and brush cutting over 25 miles of right of way
    • Renewal of six at-grade crossing surfaces

This will mark a major milestone achievement in efforts to increase productivity in this program.

Tie and Surfacing on Number 4 Track between Arsenal and Phil Interlockings

Tie and Surfacing on Number 4 Track between Arsenal and Phil Interlockings

Fallen Tree near Doylestown Station

Tree Trimming Along the Norristown Line


Amtrak - Northeast Corridor Track Work Impacting Trenton Line

In March, Amtrak began work to improve track conditions on the Northeast Corridor (NEC) between Trenton Transit Center and Holmesburg Junction. The project involves the rebuilding of track structure in this area to replace infrastructure that began to deteriorate before the end of its useful life.

The scope of the work requires taking track out of service for extended and continuous periods of time, which is creating an impact at 8 stations (Trenton Transit Center, Levittown, Bristol, Croydon, Eddington, Cornwells Heights, Torresdale and Holmesburg Junction) served by the Trenton Regional Rail Line. Additionally, as part of this work, the inner track fencing is temporarily being removed, which creates concerns for the safety of SEPTA customers.

In an effort to maximize their resources, Amtrak is deploying 3 full work gangs to this track repair work. While this will benefit the project in the long run, in the short term it is creating longer "out of service" areas because they have more resources available to work. When work gangs are out in active track area, travel speeds must be reduced to ensure their safety. Additionally, once Amtrak deploys the special equipment they use for a complete rebuilding of the track infrastructure it remains on the tracks for the duration. So, even when the track gangs are not in the field, the impact of their work is being imposed on our service.

While this project is reducing the number of tracks available for train service the amount of traffic generated by Amtrak, SEPTA, and freight carrier service is not reduced. As the owner of NEC, Amtrak is responsible for dispatching all trains, including ours. SEPTA is working to coordinate with Amtrak on dispatching issues, but more often than not, their service gets first priority and our trains must follow the instructions provided by Amtrak.

Amtrak and SEPTA agreed to a series of schedule changes for both rail operations in order to minimize impacts on service. In anticipation of the project start, SEPTA published a new timetable in January (01.14.18) reflecting these train adjustments.

Even with Amtrak trains getting first priority within the NEC corridor, the schedule changes agreed to should have been able to mitigate most of the impacts to SEPTA customers. Unfortunately, this ended up not being the case, and our customers are experiencing significant, daily service delays mainly on the Trenton and Chestnut Hill East Regional Rail Lines with a trickle effect on the Fox Chase Line.

How Significant are the SEPTA Delays?

Since the Amtrak project began in March, service on more than half of the Trenton Line trains, both inbound and outbound, and a significant number of AM and PM, outbound Chestnut Hill Line trains are being impacted.


The most significant delays for service from Trenton have occurred for customers traveling on Trains 726, 732, 734, 736, 738, 740, 758, 9756, 1766, 768, and 774 - all operating with between 30% and 75% on-time performance.


The most significant delays for service from Center City going to Trenton have occurred for customers traveling on Trains 9701, 9703, 1703, 705, 705, 8721, 725, 731, 733, 9737, 9781, 9739, 783, 743, 8749, 759, 765, and 769 -- all operating with between 10% and 75% on-time performance.


In addition, because of the way train sets are cross-routed to other lines, Chestnut Hill East Trains 726, 732, 734, 736, 738, 740, 758, 768, and 774 have also experienced delays because of the Amtrak work on the Trenton Line.


Train #7842.

The current situation is frustrating for customers who rely on our service for their daily travel. It is equally disappointing for our Operations and Planning staffs because their advanced preparations and schedule adjustments still ended up being insufficient despite their extensive work with Amtrak to make appropriate schedule changes. While we expected some impacts to our on-time performance, we certainly did not anticipate having the OTP numbers our customers are currently experiencing.

What Will Happen in the Next Phase of Amtrak Work Scheduled to Take Place May 1-25?

Beginning May 1, the Amtrak track project will expand in scale with the work zone stretching to encompass 2 additional stations - Tacony and Bridesburg - for a total of 10 stations. During this phase, ALL inbound Amtrak, SEPTA, and freight service will operate on a single track with intermittent track delays for outbound service.

What Steps Will SEPTA Take to Address this May Amtrak Work?

Taking the lessons learned from the first phase of work and again working in coordination with Amtrak, the SEPTA Rail Service Planning group built a new schedule with additional service adjustments (see Planning and Schedules section for details on the April 29th schedule change).


As part of the Amtrak track work, the inner track fencing is temporarily being removed at Stations but it is critically important that NO ONE try to cross this very active right of way. Amtrak trains traveling towards Philadelphia and New York travel at high rates of speed and they are NOT making station stops. Even if the Engineer sees you they will not be able to stop in time. Customers are also reminded to stand behind the yellow line while waiting on the station platform.


Amtrak track laying machine.