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Long time coming: LIRR's on-time performance trending upward

An eastbound train pulls into the Hicksville LIRR

An eastbound train pulls into the Hicksville LIRR station. The LIRR's on-time performance data for October improved over the same time last year. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

The Long Island Rail Road ran on time more frequently in October than any time in the past six months, according to new figures.

At a Tuesday morning meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s LIRR Committee, railroad president Phillip Eng announced that the agency’s on-time performance in October was 93.2 percent — the highest since April, when 94 percent of trains were punctual.

The LIRR considers a train on time if it reaches its final destination within 5 minutes 59 seconds of its scheduled time.

After a particularly dismal summer for LIRR commuters, Eng said the railroad’s on-time performance has been “trending upward” since September, when 92.4 percent of trains ran on time.

Eng attributed the improvements to  a “new sense of urgency” at the railroad, and pointed to his LIRR Forward service improvement initiative and the progress made recently in several infrastructure projects as evidence of that.

Syosset commuter Ned Newhouse said he’s noticed the railroad’s improved service in recent weeks, including in the form of more punctual trains, and more visible LIRR personnel.

“I feel like it’s getting better, but their infrastructure problems don’t go away,” said Newhouse, 59, who noted that many of commuters’ frustrations remain, including over the railroad’s inconsistent communication with customers. “One month does not make it successful when you’ve been not doing well for the last five. …They’ve got a long way to go.”

LIRR officials pointed to several new initiatives they said have helped avoid delays, including upgrading switches and track circuits that frequently failed in the past and replacing utility poles that could have fallen onto tracks in windy weather.

Despite the recent upticks in on-time performance, the railroad remains on pace to record its worst annual on-time performance in nearly two decades. October’s on-time performance was below that of October last year, when 94 percent of trains were on time — the highest in all of 2017.

“Sustained on-time performance will take time,” Eng said, “but I am certain that staff are focusing on the right priorities.”

The one area where the LIRR has improved compared with last year is during its evening rush hour. Through the first ten months of 2018, 86.9 percent of PM peak trains ran on time, as compared with 85.9 percent during the same period last year.

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