LIRR: 'Cannonball' run straight from Penn to Hamptons

The Long Island Rail Road says that beginning May 24, on Friday afternoons nonstop express service trains will run from Penn Station to Westhampton Beach before continuing to Montauk. Traveling 76 miles to Westhampton Beach in 94 minutes, the train is nicknamed "Cannonball." Videojournalist: Charles Eckert (April 18, 2013)

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Long Island Rail Road customers this summer will be able to take an express train from Penn Station to the Hamptons without making any stops, LIRR officials said yesterday.

The popular Cannonball train, which for years originated in Queens, is moving to Penn Station beginning Memorial Day weekend.

The train will take riders from Manhattan to Westhampton Beach station in 94 minutes before continuing to Montauk.

"We think it's an added customer convenience for those who travel to the Hamptons," LIRR president Helena Williams said.

The Cannonball, which operates on Friday afternoons during the summer, is among the LIRR's oldest and most heavily used, transporting 1,400 riders each day.

Although most of its customers live in Manhattan, the train has never departed from Penn Station, in part because of logistical and reliability issues with the LIRR's diesel-electric trains. For decades, the train has left from the LIRR's small Hunterspoint Avenue station, where officials said crowding problems are common. Many more riders boarded at Jamaica, leading to crowds and loading delays there as well.

The Hamptons train service could bring several hundred additional riders to Penn Station, but Williams said its operation should go more smoothly, in part because Penn has more space and resources than Hunterspoint Avenue or Jamaica, including open ticket windows.

At 14 cars long, including two locomotives, the Cannonball is the longest train operated by the LIRR at about twice the length of a typical diesel-electric train. A one-way Cannonball ticket costs $27. For an additional $20, riders can reserve seats in special cars where food and drinks are sold and wait service is provided.

Montauk Chamber of Commerce president Paul Monte said the changes would benefit the East End economy.

"Anything that makes it more convenient to get out here without putting more cars on the road is a big plus," said Monte, chief executive of Gurney's Inn Resort Spa and Conference Center.

Williams said she expected the streamlined Cannonball to attract new LIRR riders.

LIRR Commuter Council chairman Mark Epstein welcomed the new service but called on the railroad to restore trains on the West Hempstead, Greenport and Port Washington lines that were cut in 2010.

"If you provide it, they will ride," he said.

The LIRR is planning other improvements on its Montauk line, which saw a 34 percent boost in ridership last summer compared with the summer of 2011. The LIRR is introducing "Cannonball West" -- a Sunday evening express train out of Montauk that will stop at Jamaica and Penn Station.

The LIRR also is adjusting the schedule of some Montauk trains to better coordinate with Fire Island ferry service provided near some stations.

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