- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Amtrak pulled some of its high-speed Acela Express trains out of service again yesterday, as more cracks were found in the suspension systems.
The hairline cracks on four locomotives were found in welds of the suspension assembly after maintenance workers applied a chemical that highlights flaws not obvious to the naked eye.
"We don't think they're new," Amtrak President David Gunn said. "We think these cracks have been there, and it's when we really started looking and knew where to look that we found them."
The service interruption yesterday was the third time in less than two weeks that Amtrak has removed its most modern trains from operation along the Northeast Corridor.
Eight of the 150-mph Acela Express trains were scheduled to operate between Washington, New York and Boston yesterday until four of them were taken out of service.
On Monday, Mr. Gunn speculated that all Amtrak's Acela Express trains could return to service within days. The cracks discovered yesterday altered the timetable.
"I'll tell you, it's discouraging," Mr. Gunn said.
Typically, Amtrak uses 15 Acela Express trains on the daily runs while the others are having their suspension brackets rewelded.
Meanwhile, Federal Railroad Administration officials said regulations that set the timetable and procedures for maintenance inspections might be revised because of the discovery of cracks.
"We're going to continue working with Amtrak to determine whether revisions are needed," said Warren Flatau, FRA spokesman. "Amtrak, in our view, has acted prudently."
The cracks were found in the yaw dampers, the shock absorbers for side-to-side movement. Amtrak officials said that if brackets that hold the yaw dampers broke free, the assembly could fall off a moving train, damaging the undercarriage, which could cause a derailment.
The trains were manufactured by a consortium of Canada's Bombardier Transportation and France's Alstom Ltd.
Bombardier officials said the new welds are intended as a temporary fix. A long-term redesign of the suspension systems is planned to be announced soon, said Lecia Stewart, Bombardier's vice president of high-speed rail.
"The long-term affect is likely to be a new design in the yaw-damper bracket," Mrs. Stewart said. "It'll be a couple of weeks before that is determined."
She described the temporary fix as "welding and grinding."
Maintenance workers in Boston discovered the first cracks Aug. 9, when a bracket on a yaw damper dislodged from its weld during a routine 92-day inspection.
Amtrak officials ordered immediate inspection of all locomotives delivered under the Bombardier-Alstom contract, which revealed widespread suspension cracks. All Acela Express service was temporarily stopped the next day.
Amtrak has put more conventional trains into service to fill gaps left by the Acela Express trains.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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