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LIRR: Friday morning commute normal after third rail outage

LIRR commuters check the departure board at Penn

LIRR commuters check the departure board at Penn Station where a third rail problem causes delays during the evening rush, Thursday, April 13, 2017. Credit: Jeff Bachner

Beleaguered Long Island Rail Road customers should enjoy a smooth morning rush hour on Friday after Amtrak fixed a third rail outage at Penn Station that disrupted part of the Thursday evening rush hour, officials said.

“At this point we have no indication there would be any continuing impact to tomorrow morning’s commute,” an LIRR spokesman said Thursday night after seven eastbound trains were canceled.

The latest glitch at Penn Station — the third in less than a month — was first tweeted by the LIRR at about 5:15 p.m.

A spokesman for Amtrak, which owns and runs Penn Station, said, “It is believed a NJ Transit train damaged some of the third rail system on the north side” of Penn Station.

The third rail, which funnels power to the trains, might have been hit by “something protruding from the train; that’s the suspicion at this time,” he said.

In the past few weeks, tens of thousands of LIRR customers repeatedly have been subjected to waits and overcrowded trains.

On April 3, a NJ Transit derailment in Penn Station took eight of its 21 tracks out of service, causing massive delays that ground on for the better part of a week. Penn Station also had service problems in late March.

On April 9, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer responded to heated demands from LIRR riders to improve service, urged Congress to “come together and compromise” on a $1 trillion infrastructure spending package that would include funding to repair the region’s aging rail system.

The Northeast Corridor and Penn Station often are the nation’s busiest and Amtrak officials say funding shortages have created a $28 billion repair backlog.

Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Senate minority leader, noted that the April 3 derailment was blamed on dilapidated wooden track ties.

Though Amtrak inspectors had recently documented the need for the repairs, they failed to immediately fix them because there did not appear to be an imminent safety threat.

On March 24, an Amtrak Acela train derailed at Penn Station and hit a NJ Transit train. The incident caused enormous delays for New Jersey commuters heading into and out of the midtown Manhattan station.

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