Storm-battered Metro-North RR to cut schedule Monday
Published 9:50 am, Thursday, February 3, 2011
Metro-North Railroad next week will institute a reduced New Haven Line schedule, cutting back service by 10 percent during the morning and afternoon peak due to a faltering fleet of rail cars damaged by harsh winter conditions.
Under the schedule, in effect from Monday to March 4, riders riding from Stamford will see some changes that may further crowd already packed trains that are short of cars due to the equipment shortage.
Metro-North President Howard Permut said Tuesday that despite round-the-clock efforts to keep the railroad's aging fleet of cars in running order, the service cuts are necessary because the state's aging M-2, M-4 and M-6 cars are in terrible shape after a harsh January of record snowfalls.
Eliminated service is to be restored when the railroad catches up with the backlog of weather-related damage to the New Haven Line fleet, Permut said.
"We have been struggling to provide the service we want to provide and our customers should be getting," Permut said. "We are now faced with a series of facts that ... make it almost impossible to provide the kind of service we want and they should have." The fleet's 228 M-2 rail cars, the bulk of which were built in the 1970s, share design features with the younger M-4 and M-6 cars that make them vulnerable to damage from blowing snow damaging electronic circuitry, traction motors, and brake systems.
During Wednesday's icy rains, ridership on the Metro-North Railroad fell 40 percent systemwide.
The New Haven Line began morning service Wednesday with 146 of its 320 trains out of service because of weather-related breakdowns, down slightly from Tuesday afternoon's total of 160, Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said.
After four major snowstorms in January, the New Haven line fleet's known vulnerabilities to winter weather conditions have kept one-third to one-half of cars out of service at various times, hobbled by snow-related breakdowns.
Those rail cars still running sometimes operate with defects such as no heat. Cancellations and combined trains have led to some trains being so crowded that other trains must be rerouted to pick up the overflow.
Blowing snow shorting out electronic circuitry in plastic boxes underneath the trains, or brakes and traction motors jammed by intake valves that ingest snow have been major causes of breakdowns, officials said.
On Wednesday, the railroad reported delays of 10 to 25 minutes through the 6 to 10 a.m. rush hour.
Around 11 a.m. Wednesday, service on the New Canaan branch line was suspended for a little less an hour after a fallen tree obstructed overhead wires. Bus service was instituted for the 11:57 a.m. train, and rail service restored for the 2:27 p.m. train.
Metro-North is still investigating the cause of the partial derailment Tuesday of the 8:07 p.m. train from Grand Central Terminal to New Haven as it travelled between the Greenwich and Cos Cob stations at 8:55 p.m.
On Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Dannel Malloy released a statement that he contacted Permut to ask the railroad to about alternatives to service cuts and what possible steps could be taken to expedite repair of damaged cars to limit the extent and duration of the service cuts.
A lack of shop space in Metro-North's New Haven and Stamford maintenance facilities has hindered the speed of repairs, Permut said Tuesday.
In his statement, Malloy said he acknowledged the difficult conditions the railroad was working under with worn out cars and the need for a larger rail repair facility.
"We've had a record-breaking winter in terms of our weather, and our rail cars and service facilities have not been kept up in the manner they should have been," Malloy said. "We all know this is true.
"So in addition to my long-term focus on improving Metro-North's reliability and functionality, I'm also focused on this short-term service reduction and ways in which we can help commuters get into and out of New York City more easily."