By David Madden

CRUM LYNNE, Pa. (CBS) — Federal regulators are being asked by Septa to continue a waiver of work rules on its commuter rail division — a waiver that the transit agency’s rail unions insist puts the safety of the riding public at risk.

At issue at the hearing held this morning in Crum Lynne (Delaware County), was how much rest engineers and staffers on the trains get between work shifts.

“Ridership is at an all-time high, and Septa refuses to hire more people,” says Paul Pokrowka (below), with the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Union, representing some 400 Septa commuter rail workers.  “We’ve done the math on it. According to the numbers that Septa has given us, 127,000 riders a day, we feel it would cost a fraction of a penny per rider” to add staff to the level the union wants.

pokrowka_paul _madden

(Paul Pokrowka. Photo by David Madden)

 

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But Septa officials say the 20-month waiver has improved efficiency and insist that work schedules are “fatigue neutral,” according to Jack Lauser, senior director of rail transportation for the agency (below).

“The passenger hours of service regulation does not mandate Septa provide uninterrupted rest,” he explains.  “It requires Septa to provide an ‘opportunity’ for rest. Septa complies with the regulation but Septa cannot tell employees when to go to sleep when they are off duty.”

 

(Jack Lauser of Septa, at a hearing in Delaware County, Pa.   Photo by David Madden)

(Jack Lauser of Septa, at a hearing in Delaware County, Pa. Photo by David Madden)

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The unions disagree and insist the problem can be cured by hiring more people.

There was no immediate word on when the Federal Railway Administration will issue a ruling.