Muni train derails in tunnel, snarling evening commute

A San Francisco Municipal Railway Metro train that derailed during the morning rush hour Wednesday kept the tunnel between Castro and West Portal stations closed clogging the evening rush hour.

The train derailed about 7:50 a.m., shutting down service through the tunnel. About 4:25 p.m., Muni spokesman Alan Siegel said, workers had the train back on the track and pulled it out of the tunnel. Crews continued to work in the tunnel, repairing and testing the overhead electrical wires and inspecting the track.

It was unclear just what caused the derailment, Siegel said, but its effect was no mystery. Thousands of commuters packed onto shuttle buses that ran between downtown and West Portal all day.

“One of the things that took so long is that the tunnel is so cramped.” Siegel said of the effort to re-rail the train. “It took a lot of time just to get it back on because they’re working in such close quarters.”

He said the tunnel would remain closed for the rest of the day and that the buses would run until 10 p.m., the end of Muni’s service day.

Commuters swirled in crowds around West Portal, running to make connections from the above-ground rail lines to the shuttles and vice-versa.

Sei Shu, a delivery driver who works downtown and lives in the outer Sunset, said it took him 45 minutes to get to West Portal, where he had waited a half-hour for a connection.

“I have to cook for my family, and I can’t cook no more,” he said, indicating a bag of groceries he wouldn’t be able to use. “We’ll have to go out.” But Shu seemed glad to at least be on his own side of town. “Downtown is all screwed up,” he said.

Sean Smith, an 18-year-old San Francisco State University Student who works near Civic Center, said he canceled his plans to stay downtown andeat out. “Forget it. It’s too much work,” he said. Smith said it took him an hour and a half to get to West Portal. He had been waiting for about 15 minutes for a connection to the M back home.

amartin@examiner.com

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