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LIRR sets on-time performance record in 2009

Last year was a good one for the Long Island Rail Road when it came to on-time performance.

The LIRR recorded its best year ever in 2009 for trains running on time since it began keeping track in 1979. The commuter rail's overall on-time percentage was 95.21 percent.

"It's the single most-important issue to our customers," Helena E. Williams, LIRR's president, said Thursday.

An LIRR train is considered on time if it reaches its final destination within 5 minutes and 59 seconds of its scheduled arrival time. It's an industrywide standard that gives train operators time to load and unload trains at stations, Williams said. "I think it's pretty universal," she said.

The LIRR ran 244,937 train trips last year.

Metro-North railroad also uses the 5 minutes and 59 seconds standard, said Marjorie Anders, a Metro-North spokeswoman. Its on-time percentage in 2009 was 97.84 percent, also a record high. It operated 211,351 train trips, Anders said.

Better train maintenance, fixing worn railroad track and aggressive removal of vegetation all helped to increase LIRR on-time arrivals, Williams said.

"You trim trees so that the winds aren't blowing wires into the trees," Williams said. "That keeps the trains going."

The LIRR's previous record for on-time performance was 95.14 percent in 2008.

The diesel trains on the Oyster Bay, Port Jefferson and Montauk branches, as well as the Ronkonkoma branch, lagged in on-time performance.

Overall on-time performance for the diesel trains was 93.32 percent, up from 92.84 percent. The LIRR's diesel trains are more than a decade old and suffer "reliability issues" that hamper on-time performance, Williams said.

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