bart_generic1.jpg9:48 PM: BART experienced major system-wide delays during tonight’s evening commute when several pieces of metal on the tracks near the West Oakland station forced the agency to temporarily stop running trains through the Transbay Tube, an agency spokesman said.

Four of BART’s five lines were halted from about 6:15 p.m. to 6:50 p.m. while electricians cut power to the West Oakland station and removed three metal scraps, spokesman Linton Johnson said.

Riders experienced residual delays until about 8:30 p.m., when all trains were operating on time, he said.

The delays began at about 5:40 p.m. when the operator of a Richmond-bound train reported smoke on the tracks near West Oakland, Johnson said.

BART halted San Francisco-bound service to inspect the tracks but kept trains running east, he said.

Inspectors were still concerned, though, and decided to suspend service in both directions at about 6:15 p.m.

“As painful as it was, we decided to shut down service at the heart of the commute,” Johnson said. “It would be a lot more painful if somebody got injured.”

Electricians cut power to the West Oakland station and pulled the metal from the tracks.

Riders experienced significant delays of more than 30 minutes system-wide at that time, and trains were still delayed by about 15 minutes an hour after the West Oakland station reopened.

The only relatively unaffected trains were on the Richmond-Fremont line, which doesn’t go through West Oakland, Johnson said.

He said investigators have determined the metal did not fall off a train but were not sure tonight where it came from.

The agency tried to use a bus bridge to circumvent the track problems, but BART serves too many customers, Johnson said.

A train car has almost three times as many passengers as an AC Transit bus, and commute trains have eight to 10 cars, he said.

“(The buses) only have so much capacity, and they’re in the middle of their own commute,” he said.

8:02 PM: BART is still experiencing 15-minute delays tonight following a problem on the track that forced the agency to halt service through the West Oakland station earlier this evening, BART officials said.

Trains going from San Francisco to the East Bay were experiencing major delays of more than 30 minutes at about 6:30 p.m., when the station was shut down, BART spokesman Linton Johnson said.

The station was re-opened about 15 minutes later, but San Francisco lines were still experiencing delays at about 7:50 p.m.

The delays began when smoke on the tracks was reported under a Richmond-bound train at about 5:40 p.m. near West Oakland, Johnson said.

He said the issue ended up taking longer than expected to resolve as crews tried to determine whether the problem was mechanical, and whether it originated with the tracks or the train itself.

Janna Brancolini, Bay City News

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