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LIRR: Full rush hour service to be restored by Friday morning

Crowds of commuters board the LIRR in Mineola

Crowds of commuters board the LIRR in Mineola as trains continued to experience delays and cancellations on Thursday, April 6, 2017. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Long Island Rail Road said it plans on a normal rush hour Friday morning in what would be the first full-service commute since Monday’s derailment of a New Jersey Transit train at Penn Station.

But the railroad cautioned that its plans are dependent on “Amtrak’s successful completion of track repairs . . . [and] Amtrak’s promise to allow overnight access to tracks throughout the Penn Station area in order to ensure LIRR can pre-position trains and crews needed to run a full schedule.”

LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski said in a news release that the railroad will work all night positioning trains and doing safety tests before restoring full service by 4 a.m.

“LIRR normally operates 144 westbound morning rush hour trains, 98 of which are destined for Penn Station. In recent mornings, the LIRR has been required to cancel 10 morning rush-hour trains, terminate three at Jamaica and divert one to Hunterspoint Avenue, for a total of 14 trains directly affected by the continuing Amtrak track work — approximately 10 percent of LIRR’s morning service,” the railroad said.

“In the event Amtrak’s overnight track work takes longer than currently anticipated and train cancelations are required, the LIRR will publish real-time information across all information streams,” it said.

Amtrak President and Chief Executive Charles Moorman had also said on Thursday morning he was “confident we will have full service for rush hour tomorrow morning.”

The LIRR canceled 16 trains out of Penn Station for Thursday evening’s commute — the latest service reduction after the derailment earlier in the week damaged a track and snarled commuter train traffic at the busy station.

The canceled trains had been scheduled to leave Penn between 4 and 8 p.m. Thursday, the railroad said. Eight other trains during that time were diverted to originate at other stations, according to the LIRR.

The damage caused by Monday’s derailment had meant that LIRR westbound service has been periodically suspended during the evening rush because of ongoing repairs.

Frank Guidice, 51, a Montauk resident who works in banking, was waiting for a train home around 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Penn in order to beat the rush hour. He welcomed the news that schedules should be returning to normal on Friday. The last few days, he said, have been rough.

“There’s a lot of tension among riders right now,” he said. “Most of what we’ve experience is cancellations and lateness. We’re directed to other tracks, but once you get to the train, it’s packed. It’s very uncomfortable. You’re lucky if you get a seat, because typically you don’t.”

Frank Lovera, 53, a telecommunications worker from Port Jefferson, said he was relieved to hear the news — but he’s surprised that it had taken this long to get back on track.

“I figured there would be delays for a day or two, but it’s taken a long time,” Lovera said, adding that he’s been delayed coming in to work and going home each day by 15 minutes or more.

“You end up spending a fun time in Penn Station,” he joked.

Separately, the LIRR said early morning trains on the Ronkonkoma line on Saturday will be replaced with buses while the railroad conducts track testing. The buses will run between the Hicksville and Ronkonkoma stations, but the Bethpage and Farmingdale stations will not be affected, according to the railroad.

With Vincent Barone

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