‘Makeshift’ signals make for reduced service after Sandy: LIRR

Photo by Yinghao Luo
By Phil Corso

A temporary, makeshift signal system has kept the Long Island Rail Road from fully operating its full compliment of trains through tunnels affected by Hurricane Sandy earlier this month, a spokesman for the MTA said.

Though public transportation has been largely restored since the superstorm swept through the region and temporarily suspended trains and buses throughout the five boroughs, some trains remained canceled, according to Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Salvatore Arena.

“The main reason the LIRR was not able to restore regular service is that two of the four tunnels that take trains to and from Penn Station were knocked out of commission,” Arena said. “So we had the trains but only half our normal access.”

Arena said the LIRR was ready to return to regular service within three days of Sandy’s departure because of its early preparations, in which rolling stock was placed on high ground before the storm. “We did not lose one car or engine,” Arena said.

But despite the readily available stock of train cars, Arena said previously flooded tunnels have still slowed the return to regular service — cancelling three rush hour trains toward Penn Station on the Port Washington line.

“We know this has been a very difficult two weeks for our customers, for all of Long Island and for the entire region,” said LIRR President Helena Williams. “We are as eager as our customers to return to normal service as part of the on-going recovery process.”

Though the tunnels have been returned to service, Arena said, the LIRR was still operating with a makeshift and temporary signal system, limiting the number of trains the system can accommodate.

“So, while we are back on our regular, published schedule, with the exception of the Long Beach branch, as a base reference for our customers, we can only run it by canceling some trains on each branch,” Arena said. “Only when the tunnel signal system is again fully operational will we be able to run without cancellations.”

As of Nov. 12, the LIRR begun operating under a weekday schedule on 10 of its 11 branches with 19 of the LIRR’s 143 morning rush hour trains canceled or diverted to another terminal, the MTA said. In the evening rush hour, of the 127 trains the LIRR operates, 23 have been canceled.

Across the entire day, the MTA said adjustments provided for 83 percent of normal weekday service capacity.

“If you have been tracking the LIRR’s recovery from Hurricane Sandy, you know that each day brings us closer to the return of regular service,” Arena said.

To stay updated on gradual returns to regular service, Arena said the LIRR’s public outreach system would post regular timetables on its website at mta.info and continually publish temporary schedules, a 24-hour public information office and more. Customers can also reach the LIRR’s 24/7 Travel Information Office by dialing 511, the New York State Transit Hotline.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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