PATCO's long-delayed rebuilt commuter cars will not be rolled out this month as planned, as continuing glitches in signal systems have forced another delay, PATCO officials said Tuesday.
PATCO executives said last month the first eight of 120 refurbished cars would be put into customer service in February.
But PATCO president John Hanson said Tuesday, "They're not going to be ready by the end of this month."
PATCO is withholding millions of dollars in payments to Alstom Transport Inc. while the manufacturer tries to fix the problem, Hanson said.
Engineering consultants for PATCO were sent Tuesday to Rochester, N.Y., to meet with Alstom officials on the latest delay. Hanson said PATCO was "looking into what other recourse we may have."
"My patience has been exhausted," Hanson said. "PATCO can't build the cars. Alstom has to build the cars. That is a source of great frustration to us."
Hanson made no new promises on when the refurbished cars might finally debut, but said, "I am unwilling to accept the idea that we're not going to have these cars in service in March."
PATCO hired Alstom in 2010 for $194 million to rebuild its 120-car commuter rail fleet at a Hornell, N.Y., factory. Alstom, a French firm, is more than a year behind schedule in returning the cars to service because of ongoing problems with communications, automatic train control, propulsion, and braking systems.
The current problem is with the automatic signal system that gives control instructions to the train operators, Hanson said.
"It's not a safety issue, it's a nuisance issue, but we're not going to accept the cars until it's fixed," he said.
Once the eight rebuilt cars return to service, PATCO will have 100 cars available for regular service, up from the current 92.
Six of the 18 cars now at the Alstom factory are nearing completion, and as rebuilt cars are returned to PATCO, the same number of old cars will be shipped to Alstom.
The process should go faster once Alstom has successfully rebuilt the first eight.
Alstom has said it plans to rebuild at least four cars a month, which means it is likely to be 2017 before the whole fleet is refurbished.
In rebuilding the cars, Alstom has struggled to incorporate new computer technology into the operational systems of 45-year-old train cars.
PATCO's corporate parent, the Delaware River Port Authority, decided to save money in 2010 by rebuilding the old cars for $194 million rather than buying all-new cars. (By comparison, SEPTA paid $274 million for its 120 new Silverliner V rail cars, the last of which was delivered last year.)
The stainless steel PATCO bodies will be the originals, and the cars will still have their old wheel assemblies and traction motors.