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LIRR cancellations, delays disrupt Thursday’s rush hour

The Long Island Rail Road endured another rush hour filled with delays and cancellations Thursday.

Shortly before 4 p.m., the LIRR advised customers to “anticipate cancellations on all branches during this evening’s rush,” because of a signal problem near New Hyde Park.

The issue caused delays averaging 20 to 30 minutes on the Oyster Bay, Port Jefferson and Ronkonkoma branches, and also forced the cancellation of at least three trains.

It was the latest in a string of recent rush hour service disruptions on the LIRR.

A broken crossing gate near Mineola caused delays during the Tuesday evening commute. Several other service problems last week were blamed on issues ranging from a disabled Amtrak train inside a tunnel, a person falling onto the tracks at Penn Station, and a dispatcher incorrectly routing a train. The latter resulted in the LIRR canceling nearly 90 trains during the evening rush hour a week ago.

Commuters are awaiting details on a plan by Amtrak to renew some track infrastructure at Penn in order to reduce disruptions caused by track problems at Penn Station, which Amtrak owns. The plan is expected to impact LIRR service for much of July and August.

On Wednesday, state Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Flower Hill) proposed legislation authorizing the MTA to withhold payments to Amtrak, and return the savings to customers in the form of fare reductions, unless and until 95 percent of LIRR trains arrive at and depart from Penn Station on time for a full month.

“LIRR commuters have been living in an endless nightmare. Riders are already paying too much for inadequate service,” state Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford), who co-sponsored the bill, said Thursday. “It’s time that hard working Long Islanders are compensated for the significant delays and missed family time.”

In a statement Thursday, Amtrak said it agreed that “dramatic action is required at Penn Station,” but cautioned that “withholding funds that support the advancement of this work is not the answer.”

“LIRR payments to Amtrak are for their share of cost we incur for the maintenance and operation of the facilities they use,” said Amtrak, which urged both sides “to work together to restore reliability to Penn Station.”

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