PATCO will offer free rides for the Friday morning rush hour.

That's right, there will be no charge from 6 to 9 a.m., the Delaware River Port Authority announced Thursday.

The freebies come after days of frustrating delays, service interruptions, and overcrowding that began before dawn Monday, when PATCO was forced to shut down most operations  for 11 hours because of an accident, and then operate on a modified schedule. Full service and a normal schedule resumed Thursday afternoon.

The trouble began when a Conrail freight train hit a low-hanging power line that belongs to PATCO and pulled down the catenary carrying the cable about 5:30 a.m., PATCO and Conrail officials said. As a result, an electric conduit landed in the path of an eastbound PATCO train, disabling signals powered by the conduit. An investigation is underway to determine what happened to make the cable dip so low.

The rail line is one of the most important links between Center City and South Jersey, carrying 38,000 passengers daily.

"We know that our service interruption and modified schedule this week have caused significant strain and inconvenience for our customers," Ryan N. Boyer, the DRPA board chairman, said in a statement. "We are happy to announce that all repairs are complete… As a way of acknowledging our customers, we have decided to offer free rides for the Friday morning rush hour."

On Friday morning, fare gates at all stations will be open to allow free passage, officials said. A rider who boards shortly before 9 a.m. and reaches the destination station after the gates close should pick up the red phone to ask a customer service agent to open the gate to allow free exit, DRPA said.

For more information, visit PATCO's website at