MARTA works to restore normal airport rail service

[10:12 p.m.]: The gold line is running to the airport Thursday night, MARTA spokeswoman Stephany Fisher confirmed. She said the gold line is able to run during the nighttime hours, but not during the day because of the repairs going on at the Airport station.

She said the “hope is to have the track repairs done by Friday night so full rail service to the airport can resume.”

[7:22 p.m.]: The crane lifted the two disabled rail cars and placed them back on the track, and they will be towed to the rail yard later tonight, MARTA spokeswoman Stephany Fisher said.

Maintenance is now able to make any necessary repairs to the track, and direct rail service will be restored following those repairs, she said.

UPDATE [2:30 p.m.]: Normal MARTA rail service to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport could be restored as soon as this evening as the agency prepares to remove derailed cars from the tracks.

A crane is at the site and preparing to remove two derailed cars from the track at the airport, according to David Springstead, MARTA’s director of rail operations. He said they should be removed by sundown.

In the meantime, the agency continues to ferry passengers by bus and on southbound trains using the northbound track between the College Park and airport stations.

Springstead said MARTA ran rail service directly to the airport from its Doraville line Wednesday night, using a track that had not been affected. But because of the volume of people headed to the airport during the day, the agency resumed requiring passengers to get off at College Park on Thursday, rather than providing direct service.

Springstead said the shuttle service MARTA established has allowed it to proceed carefully as it prepares to remove the derailed cars and repair track that was damaged.

“We’re going slow and methodically,” he said at a press conference at College Park Station Thursday afternoon.

Original post: If you're waiting for MARTA to restore normal train service to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, you'll need to pack some more patience.

A derailed train that has been stuck on the tracks near the airport since Tuesday night is still there.

And officials now estimate a crane needed to lift the disabled train may not arrive until 2 p.m. Thursday — more than six hours after the crane was originally scheduled to come.

“The crane crew is working to get it there and set up,” MARTA spokeswoman Stephany Fisher told about 11 a.m.

MARTA crews are clearing parts of an airport parking lot below the tracks so they can bring in the crane and lift two disabled cars.

The crane was originally scheduled to arrive at sunrise, which was at 7:42 a.m. Officials later pushed back the time to 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The disruption to regular service started about 9 p.m. Tuesday when an out-of-service train derailed just north of the Airport station on a raised platform. The conductor was the only person on board and was not injured.

“This is an unusual occurrence for MARTA and there is no clear indication yet of what caused this to happen,” Fisher said.

Preliminary findings suggest the train, which consists of six cars, was heading in the right direction with four cars crossing the interlocking without incident.

It appears the sixth rail car failed to follow the proper route, which resulted in the derailment of that car and the partial derailment of the fifth rail car, according to MARTA.

“Several other trains had crossed the interlocking earlier in the day without issue,” Fisher said.

MARTA personnel will be able to take a better look at the rail cars and track once the rail cars are removed.

“A thorough investigation will reveal more,” Fisher said.

Crews were able to separate four rail cars from the two derailed cars Wednesday night, Fisher said. They hope the crane will lift the train back onto the tracks.

Shuttles ran all day Wednesday to get people to the airport, delaying the plans of some travelers and leaving some frustrated. Some felt the problems reflected poorly on MARTA as Atlanta prepares to host hundreds of thousands for the Feb. 3 Super Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

When asked about incidents that may arise during the Super Bowl, MARTA rail operations chief Dave Springstead said “this situation proves MARTA is ready to respond.”

MARTA is continuing shuttle service between the College Park and Airport stations until normal train service is restored.