wrong track

MTA Yanks ‘Lemon’ Trains Out of Service

A new model R179 A train pulls into 34th Street-Penn Station, on Nov. 20, 2019.
A new model R179 A train pulls into 34th Street-Penn Station, on Nov. 20, 2019. Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

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The MTA had to pull 298 of its newest subway cars out of service overnight after a pair of recent incidents “raised questions” about the reliability of their doors.

Trains with newer cars on the A, C, J and Z lines were abruptly pulled off the tracks so an independent review of car inspections can be conducted, the MTA said in a statement.

The cars are part of a $600 million order from Canadian manufacturer Bombardier, and have previously been called “lemons” by officials from Transport Workers Union Local 100 and city Comptroller Scott Stringer.

“As documented, the MTA has identified repeated issues with Bombardier’s performance and finds this latest development unacceptable,” New York City Transit President Andy Byford said in a statement Wednesday morning. “We intend to hold the company fully accountable.”

THE CITY reported in November that the cars, known as R179s, have had recurring problems since they began belatedly pulling into stations in November 2017, yielding breakdown rates that are higher than those of subway cars that have been in use for decades.

While reliability of the new subway cars has been on the upswing in recent months — “Bombardier has upped their game, there’s no question,” Byford said in December — they were sidelined by the manufacturer’s analysis of two recent incidents that raised red flags about “reliable operation” of a door mechanism.

Retired Trains Rolling

The MTA didn’t give exact details on what the incidents involved or when they took place. Riders were safe in both cases, Byford said, adding that the MTA took the cars out of service in an abundance of caution.

New York City Transit “removed all R179 train cars from service overnight for thorough inspection and re-deployed other spare cars to continue service,” Byford said.

The shuffle caused a scramble, sources told THE CITY, as the MTA had to cancel all planned overnight work to press other cars into service.

Those included some of the oldest cars in the fleet, which are nearing retirement and not in regular use after running for more than half a century.

A model R32 C train, in service since the 1960s, pulls out of 34th Street-Penn Station on Jan. 8, 2020.
A model R32 C train, in service since the 1960s, pulls out of 34th Street-Penn Station on Jan. 8, 2020. Photo: Jose Martinez/THE CITY

In January 2019, the MTA briefly stopped accepting new subway cars from Bombardier because of performance problems and delays in delivering the cars to New York.

“We value our partnership with New York City Transit and are fully committed to providing high quality, reliable, safe rail cars for the millions of people who ride New York’s subway system every day,” said Maryanne Roberts, a Bombardier spokesperson.

Roberts pinned the latest problems on the door-system supplier, Kangni.

“We are now inspecting all of the R179 cars and, where necessary, making adjustments to ensure the safe and reliable performance of the doors for the entire fleet,” Roberts said.

Sources said it’s not clear how long the new cars will remain out of service. The size of the 2012 order was increased to 318 subway cars — at a discount to the MTA — because of the problems.

Meanwhile, vintage R32 and R42 cars, which have been in service for more than half a century, will fill the void.

Riders on the C line said they noticed more of the older cars than usual running on Wednesday morning.

“So, it was a bad use of money,” grumbled Santo Pullara, 62, as he stepped off a C train at 34th Street-Penn Station. “What else is new?”

Stringer, whose audit flagged the “poor project management” and the late arrival of the new cars, said the continued problems are “unacceptable.”

“Bombardier sold us lemons,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “Straphangers need the MTA to manage these contracts from the beginning — before the trains go off the rails.”

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