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Long IslandTransportation

LIRR chief offers new details on commuters’ bumpy week

A Long Island Rail Road rider is helped

A Long Island Rail Road rider is helped by a fellow rider as he struggles to navigate the snow-covered steps leading to the platform at the Port Jefferson LIRR station on Thursday afternoon, Feb. 9, 2017. Neither the steps nor the train platform appeared to have been shoveled following Thursday's major snow storm. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski provided new details Tuesday on a particularly grueling week for commuters earlier this month that included several major service disruptions, a derailment and a massive snowstorm.

At a Manhattan meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s LIRR Committee, Nowakowski offered his sympathies to Long Island Rail Road commuters, who endured a seven-day stretch this month filled with cancellations, detours and lengthy delays.

Nowakowski said the series of unfortunate railroad incidents began on the evening of Feb. 7, when the LIRR lost power at its Brook Tower in Brooklyn, from which train movements are controlled on the railroad’s Brooklyn branch.

“With no power, you have no signal system. With no signal system, you have virtually no ability to move any trains,” said Nowakowski, who added that the issue impacted more than 30 evening rush-hour trains.

The next day, a train that was heading east to pick up customers at Huntington derailed as it approached Jamaica station. Nowakowski said the train struck the west end of one of Jamaica Station’s platforms, physically shifting it almost 2 feet and blocking trains’ access to the adjacent track.

The derailment also “shorted out” the power feeding all the electrified third rails at Jamaica and ruptured an air line that served the station’s signal system. Repairs from the derailment, which included hiring a contractor to lift the station platform and return it to its original position, lasted through the following weekend and caused several days of delays, he said.

On the same day of the derailment, a signal problem in Queens took one of the railroad’s two Main Line tracks out of service near New Hyde Park throughout the evening rush hour, he said.

“The next day we were hit with a 12-to-15-inch snowstorm, which, again, caused havoc to our system,” Nowakowski noted.

The service problems lasted into the following Monday, when “extremely high winds” knocked down several tree limbs, utility poles and power lines along the LIRR’s tracks.

And Tuesday, a rubbish fire in the East River tunnel delayed LIRR trains and forced the railroad to restrict access to Penn Station during the evening rush, authorities said. The blaze was reported about 5:15 p.m. on the Manhattan side of the tunnel and was put out in 10 minutes, fire officials said. But the backup led to cancellations and delays of up to 40 minutes, the railroad said.

Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), who criticized the LIRR’s recent performance woes at a Senate transportation hearing last week, said Tuesday that it is “no wonder why” riders are upset about fare hikes coming next month.

“It has gotten to a point where I hear constituents complain about the LIRR on a near-daily basis,” Kaminsky said.

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