This week marks the 5th year anniversary of the NCTD (San Diego) “Sprinter” rail service. But instead of celebrating, the service was abruptly suspended after the Calif. PUC discovered premature wear in the brake rotors.
Embarrassed NCTD officials don’t even know when the service will resume. The outage could be as long as four months. Bus bridges are being run as an interim measure.
Media reporting has generally described this as a management snafu. NCTD subcontracts maintenance to Bombardier and Veolia. Their work was overseen by the district’s rail mechanical engineer. He knew about the problem, but apparently did not act on it. He has since resigned.
However, this does not explain why the rotors wore out so fast in the first place. This Sprinter model is used all over Europe, and I am not aware of any reported issues with premature brake wear.
One possible explanation might be that San Diego’s Sprinters are not quite off-the-shelf models. You see, the CPUC decided it knew better than the vehicle’s designers and spec’ed out their own braking system for the train:
“They’re big brakes, better than (in) Germany,” said Husemann, noting the train’s stopping power.
Bullock said the brawny brakes were installed to satisfy a California Public Utilities Commission requirement.
The cars are diesel-powered multiple units, which are new to California and rare in North America. The commission had specific requests for the brakes, requiring Siemens to engineer them specially for NCTD cars.