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LIRR: Rush-hour delays, cancellations caused by storm-related issues

Workers clear snow from the platform at the

Workers clear snow from the platform at the Long Island Rail Road's Mineola station on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Long Island Rail Road was bogged down with new delays and cancellations at the start of Friday afternoon’s rush hour due to lingering storm issues, after it had reported that trains were on or close to schedule before the evening commute.

Riders of the commuter railroad experienced scattered systemwide delays and some cancellations since the winter storm intensified Thursday morning and the continuing cold weather complicated matters afterward.

Some trains were delayed and one eastbound train from Atlantic Terminal to West Hempstead had been canceled as the workweek came to a close Friday afternoon, the LIRR said.

Among lingering issues, Hempstead Branch eastbound trains were bypassing the Hollis and Queens Village stations Friday afternoon and there was some congestion reported on the Far Rockaway Branch, the LIRR said. Buses continued to replace trains between Ronkonkoma and Greenport, following an 8 a.m. change caused by weather conditions.

The railroad system announced that it would keep waiting rooms open around the clock through Sunday, returning to their normal schedule on Monday.

Just as the railroad started to recover from the weather woes linked to line obstructions and cold switches, it was posting timetable revisions for the coming months as repairs are set to resume at Penn Station on Monday.

Starting with next week’s commute, the LIRR said it would be adding extra trains, but those would come with other changes tied to planned repairs of Amtrak’s tracks.

The LIRR will reroute five of the 98 morning rush hour trains that normally go to Penn Station and three of the 86 evening rush hour trains that usually leave Penn, according to a Friday afternoon announcement.

The railroad system also will be activating five additional trains before or after rush hours to counter those disruptions, while adding cars to five trains to increase capacity.

It’s not expected to be quite the “summer of hell” that commuters experienced due to 2017 repairs, but it won’t be heavenly winter bliss for 2018 either.

“With five percent of rush hour trains being affected compared with 20 percent during Amtrak’s intensive work at Penn this past summer, this will have a significantly smaller impact than the one felt this past summer,” said a statement from LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski. “We are committed to providing our customers with exemplary service and travel options despite this small disruption. We are maintaining capacity by lengthening select trains and adding trains just before and just after rush hours when we have available timeslots.”

As for Friday’s morning commute after the storm, a smattering of trains had been canceled on some branches, including Hempstead, Oyster Bay, Port Jefferson and Port Washington. Delays of up to 60 minutes on the Babylon Branch were resolved by the end of the morning rush.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority managing director Veronique Hakim attributed the delays to equipment problems and frozen switches after the snowstorm that left 5-foot drifts on tracks.

“At this point we’re recovering pretty well,” Hakim told News 12 Long Island. “We’re combining a few trains . . . mostly we’re running pretty well out on Long Island and into Manhattan.”

In other transportation news, buses had resumed in both Nassau and Suffolk on Friday morning, according to the Nassau Inter-County Express and Suffolk County Transit, though both services anticipated delays due to road conditions.

Thursday was rough on the roads and the rails.

Commuters riding the LIRR dealt with delays, suspended service and cancellations as the storm that brought howling winds and dumped more than a foot of snow on parts of Long Island left the agency and its crews battling a stream of weather-related problems.

The LIRR added four eastbound trains for commuters returning home early to avoid a messier rush hour, but delays had piled up while crews worked to fix frozen switches and to remove obstructions on the tracks.

MTA chairman Joe Lhota said during a Thursday afternoon briefing that ridership was down about 30 percent, with 29,000 fewer Long Islanders traveling west Thursday morning.

He also worried about problems ahead, as temperatures in the wake of the storm were due to plummet through the overnight hours.

“I am concerned about the freezing conditions,” Lhota said on Thursday. “The Long Island Rail Road is completely exposed to the elements and so that all of our switches, all of our equipment, is on the outside. We are doing all that we can to keep our tracks warm.”

With Rachel Uda

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