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LIRR: Expect service to be on or close during evening rush

Commuters boarding a westbound Long Island Rail Road

Commuters boarding a westbound Long Island Rail Road train at the Hicksville station on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015. Credit: Howard Schnapp

After much of the morning rush hour saw commuters facing scattered delays Thursday, the Long Island Rail Road said it expected service to be on or close to schedule for the evening rush.

That was welcome news after speed restrictions put in place following the restoration of service on the Ronkonkoma and Port Jefferson branches caused delays Thursday morning of 10 to 15 minutes, one of more than 30 minutes, and a cancellation of the 7:48 a.m. train from Wantagh to Penn Station because of an equipment shortage.

The railroad said earlier it had expected normal morning rush-hour service after debris from a freight train that derailed Tuesday in New Cassel had been cleared, with repairs made to damaged track and the third rail. A railroad spokeswoman said, however, that final repair efforts pushed into "the six o'clock hour" and that, as a safety precaution, the first train through the repaired area was restricted to 30 mph, while the second was restricted to 60 mph. Only after that were trains allowed to resume normal operation, causing "residual delays," she said.

That was more annoyance for commuters, who already had to deal with two days of cancellations and delays because of the derailment.

The derailment -- the third incident in just two weeks to cause major service disruptions on the LIRR -- affected about 35,000 riders.

In addition to delays on the Ronkonkoma and Port Jefferson branches, the railroad also reported lesser delays to trains on the Babylon and Hempstead branches.

The railroad said customers should monitor the LIRR's website,, the TrainTime App and news reports for up-to-date service information; customers are also advised to subscribe to email and text alerts and to follow @LIRR on Twitter.

In a service alert at 12:39 a.m. Thursday, the LIRR had said, "After re-railing the second freight car, LIRR personnel are continuing to work through the overnight to remove the re-railed car from the site, and rebuild the damaged track and third rail in that area, as well." The re-railing of the second car completely cleared the two tracks shared by trains of the Ronkonkoma and Port Jefferson branches, the LIRR said.

"LIRR work crews unloaded tons of construction debris from the freight car that had toppled on to its side and removed both the car and its wheel assemblies from the track area. The track -- including the electrified third rail -- was then rebuilt," the LIRR said Wednesday, referring to work done that morning.

The derailment came less than two weeks after a signal problem caused a morning rush-hour suspension of trains into and out of Penn Station, and less than a week after a crossing accident halted service on part of the Ronkonkoma line.

"You never like to have any events, but when you have multiple events, there is understandably a high level of frustration among our passengers," LIRR president Patrick Nowakowski said.

The derailment was one of numerous safety-related incidents involving New York & Atlantic Railway, the Glendale-based freight operator under contract with the LIRR. The Federal Railroad Administration in July announced it was conducting a safety review of the company after a collision between a freight train and a tractor trailer in Queens.

NY & A trains also derailed on the LIRR's tracks in April of this year and in May 2014.

Railway president Paul Victor said he didn't believe the train's crew was "culpable" in Tuesday's derailment. "Although you may do everything in a safe manner, it doesn't mean that sometimes things don't go left when they should go right," he said.

With Ellen Yan and William Murphy

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