bart_generic1.jpg4:36 AM 3/31: BART trains are expected to be fully back on schedule today after a small fire in a train tunnel in San Francisco Tuesday morning caused system-wide delays for much of the day, authorities said.

Crews worked overnight to repair damaged sensors that allow trains to run automatically without getting too close to one another, BART spokesman Lynton Johnson said. The repairs were completed by about 4:10 a.m. and the first trains of the day were running on time.

The sensors were damaged in a small fire between BART’s Civic Center and Powell Street stations at around 8 a.m.

10:46 PM 3/30: BART crews are expected to work through the night to repair damage related to a fire early this morning between BART’s Civic Center and Powell Street stations that caused delays throughout the day, a BART spokesman said.

Spokesman Linton Johnson said this morning’s blaze, which occurred shortly before 8 a.m., was small and quickly extinguished, but sensors that track the trains through that portion of the tunnel were damaged.

The sensors allow trains to run automatically without getting too close to one another. Until the sensors are fixed, trains have to operate in manual mode between the Powell Street and 16th Street stations, which means they run at 25 mph or less, Johnson said.

The incident caused major delays during this morning’s commute, but Johnson said the evening commute “went very well.” There were minor delays for a short period of time for trains heading from San Francisco to the East Bay and delays of 10-15 minutes for trains coming into San Francisco from the East Bay.

BART officials had hoped to have the equipment problem fixed following the evening commute, when the number of trains traveling through the area is reduced, allowing crews more time to work on the tracks. However, Johnson said crews will work through the night and repairs are expected to be complete by the Wednesday morning commute.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

BART issued an apology tonight to its customers hit hardest by this morning’s delays. The transit agency had announced that delays were between 15 and 30 minutes, but some customers experienced longer delays, Johnson said.

“We sincerely regret we didn’t calculate the maximum delay some of you experienced but we appreciated your patience as we worked to make your ride as safe as possible,” BART said in an apology posted on its Web site.

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