The first six railcars to be rebuilt as part of the $194 million program to upgrade PATCO's entire 120-car fleet will return to service next Thursday, officials said Wednesday.

The Delaware River Port Authority, which oversees PATCO, deemed the cars acceptable May 8 after a lengthy delay because of problems with communications, automatic train control, and propulsion and braking systems.

The DRPA already has two more cars that will soon be put into service and two more ready to ship from Alstom Transport Inc. in Hornell, N.Y.

The authority hired Alstom in 2010 to rebuild the 40-year-old fleet, deciding that buying new cars was too expensive.

PATCO president John Hanson said the six cars were accepted because officials "were finally satisfied that the cars are right."

With the acceptance of the prototypes, PATCO expects to fall into a regular monthly pattern of bringing more rebuilt cars back into the system.

The cars will have new interiors and communications and heating systems. The cars will generally appear the same on the outside, retaining their original stainless-steel bodies and old wheel assemblies and traction motors.

At the DRPA's board meeting Wednesday evening, officials announced that the agency would implement a new, hurry-up schedule for track work on the Ben Franklin Bridge.

The new schedule will create additional train delays between July and September but is designed to complete the work on the two-year, $103 million project by the end of the year rather than next spring.

The limited schedule will be similar to the train schedule PATCO used last year from August to October, with service at least every 15 minutes during rush hours.

The board also approved an application to the federal government for grant funding to reopen the long-shuttered Franklin Square Station.

Hanson said the cost of reopening the station, which has been closed since 1979, would be around $18 million to $20 million, and could increase by a further $8 million if an additional access way is included.

The station under Franklin Square in Old City was opened in 1936, but was closed three different times because of lack of use.

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