Suspended LIRR service may be restored today

LIRR trains enter and leave the Jamaica station. LIRR trains enter and leave the Jamaica station. (Feb. 8, 2013) Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

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The Long Island Rail Road planned to resume normal weekend service Sunday throughout most of its system, having largely dug out of the blizzard that forced the agency to curtail most of its operations Saturday.

Service will be back to normal Saturday everywhere except east of Ronkonkoma, east of Babylon and east of Huntington. That includes the Far Rockaway, Long Beach, Hempstead and Oyster Bay branches, which were all suspended through most of Saturday.

"Until service is fully restored, our crews will continue working around the clock clearing snow and ice from the tracks, clearing yards, inspecting signals, train equipment, switches and grade crossings," LIRR president Helena Williams said. "The biggest tasks right now are removing snow and clearing ice from the third rail."

With 700 miles of track covered in snow, the LIRR made its so-called "big four" -- the Babylon, Ronkonkoma, Port Washington and Port Jefferson lines -- its top priority Saturday. Trains ran about every two hours on those lines, as 1,200 employees worked around the clock to clear the rails. "We've got to kind of concentrate the available resources on those primary branches," LIRR customer service vice president Joe Calderone said.

Service remained suspended on the Far Rockaway, Hempstead, Long Beach and Oyster Bay branches as well as the Montauk branch east of Speonk, the Port Jefferson branch east of Huntington and the Ronkonkoma branch east of Farmingdale.

The LIRR's approach to the blizzard -- its first major snowstorm in two years -- was gleaned from past weather emergencies. In 2010, the LIRR adopted a policy of suspending service when snowfall of 10 inches or more accumulated on tracks. And in 2011, it created specific weather emergency timetables to give riders some predictability even during service disruptions.

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Calderone said the railroad benefitted from the worst of the storm arriving after most of its commuters had reached home Friday evening because the LIRR had added extra afternoon trains. He said ridership Saturday was "definitely light." And with few customers or trains, crews should be able to restore most service by tomorrow, he said.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority reported scattered delays throughout the rest of its system. Suffolk County Transit suspended all buses Saturday, and expects to resume service Monday. Nassau's NICE Bus operated a normal schedule yesterday with some scattered delays and detours, especially on North Shore roads.

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