Trains crew cut signal cables, causing LIRR delays

The Long Island Rail Road was forced to The Long Island Rail Road was forced to suspend all train service between Jamaica and Penn Station mid-Monday morning because of signal trouble east of the East River tunnels, a railroad spokesman said. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

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A construction crew supervised by the Long Island Rail Road accidentally cut four signal cables in Queens Monday, leading to canceled trains in another mishap tied to the East Side Access improvements, LIRR officials said.

Construction workers damaged the underground cables shortly after the morning rush hour ended, at 9:45 a.m., said LIRR spokesman Salvatore Arena. Officials said they were doing work with a backhoe.

Train service between Penn Station and Jamaica was temporarily suspended, which led to a domino effect of delays systemwide. In all, 47 trains were canceled or partially canceled before service was restored around noon, Arena said, and 15 trains delayed through 3 p.m.

"We apologize to customers for any inconvenience," Arena said. "A full review of the incident is underway."

Officials said the mishap occurred as workers were building a new signal hut at the Sunnyside rail yard, specifically at the Harold Interlocking switching complex.

According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the switching complex is the busiest in the nation, handling not just LIRR trains but also Amtrak trains.

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The hut is one of several infrastructure improvements and redesigns that are part of the multibillion-dollar East Side Access project, which will link the LIRR to Grand Central Terminal.

Last September, an East Side Access contractor excavating at the Sunnyside yard inadvertently severed cables that operated signals in two of the four East River tunnels. That led to major delays and train cancellations during the afternoon rush hour.

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