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LIRR promises steps to prevent overcrowding on 'Cannonball' express to Montauk

Riders exit the "Cannonball," an LIRR train that travels from Penn Station to Montauk on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015. The Long Island Rail Road plans to include more personnel on Cannonball trains to prevent dangerous crowding conditions. (Credit: Doug Kuntz)

The Long Island Rail Road, after meeting with a federal regulator Tuesday, said it will take extra precautions, including adding personnel, to prevent dangerous crowding conditions on board a popular Hamptons-bound train.

Spurred by a CBS 2 News video capturing heavy crowding aboard a recent Friday afternoon "Cannonball" express train from Penn Station to Montauk, a regional representative from the Federal Railroad Administration on Monday night requested to have the issue added as part of a discussion at a meeting Tuesday with LIRR operations vice president David Kubicek, according to the railroad.

An FRA spokesman said the discussion was aimed at finding "solutions to the problem of overcrowding, which can be a concern as it relates to the ability of people to move from one car to the next in the event of an emergency."

"Possible options to relieve the overcrowding" were discussed at the meeting, an FRA spokesman said, and the LIRR is "taking those options into consideration."

LIRR spokesman Adam Lisberg said that when "the topic of Cannonball crowding came up at a previously scheduled, unrelated meeting," the LIRR agreed to take extra steps to keep aisles and emergency exits clear of luggage, coolers and other objects.

The railroad also said it will have extra personnel and MTA police officers available to supervise train loading, "to ensure a safe and orderly ride."

"We're going to continue our productive conversations with them on this topic," Lisberg said.

The CBS 2 News video showed several Hamptons-bound passengers sitting in aisles, on top of luggage and on the steps connecting the two floors of the double-deck trains.

The FRA spokesman said the agency is mainly concerned that the LIRR comply with its emergency preparedness plan on file with the federal agency, and that measures are taken to make sure objects don't block passengers during a train evacuation.

The LIRR does not have maximum occupancy limits for train cars, and routinely allows customers to stand when no seats are available.

The FRA also doesn't cap the number of passengers that can be in a commuter train car.

LIRR officials added that some 25 employees and MTA police supervise the loading and unloading of the Cannonball, and that nobody is forced to get on.

The LIRR runs several other trains to Montauk throughout the day.

LIRR officials have acknowledged that the 4 p.m. Friday train can get crowded during particularly busy weekends, but said they have usually had seats available throughout this summer. They did not know how many customers boarded last Friday.


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