FREMONT — BART estimates it will take another four to five weeks to restore direct rail service on the Fremont-to-Richmond line.
Passengers traveling between the two cities have had to transfer at the BayFair station in San Leandro since two fires last month destroyed train control equipment.
Delays have averaged 15 minutes in each direction for commuters, BART spokesman Linton Johnson said. However, several passengers say they experience longer delays.
The May 10 fires caused millions of dollars in damage to a computer control room, power substation and control tower, which were used to monitor and control trains as they moved through BART's Hayward yard.
While repairs are being made, BART has had to manually operate trains at speeds no faster than 25 mph between the Union City and South Hayward stations. To preserve timed transfers at other stations and keep the rest of the system operating on time, BART has reduced the number of trains running between Hayward and Fremont, and is making passengers transfer at BayFair station.
BART rider Rema Krishnan, who commutes from Fremont to Berkeley, says her commute time has increased by 25 to 30 minutes in each direction since the fires.
She must now catch a 6 a.m. train to be in Berkeley by 7:30 a.m. "It's not trivial," she said. "Everyone is so disgruntled changing over at BayFair."
The service reduction affects 5 percent of BART riders — about 18,400 people in all, Johnson said.
Ridership is off 0.2 percent since the fires, the cause and financial impact of which are still unknown, Johnson said. BART is still on target to restore service within the six-to-eight week time frame it announced after the fires.
The Hayward yard, which was damaged in the fire, is home to one-quarter of BART's fleet and is used for much of the agency's maintenance work. "We're crippled without it," Johnson said.
Crews are working nights and weekends to restore service, Johnson said, adding that BART hasn't gotten the same political and monetary help that went into the rebuilding of the MacArthur Maze last year.
"Nobody wants to fix this faster and more efficiently than we do," he said. "Unfortunately, we are doing this all on our own."