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LIRR finished out of the winner’s circle

LIRR commuters flock to Belmont Park for the

LIRR commuters flock to Belmont Park for the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes on June 9. Credit: James Escher

It would’ve been faster to ride a horse, even if it weren’t Justify.

Thousands of racing fans who took the Long Island Rail Road to get to Belmont Park on Saturday were stuck on tracks and platforms as train delays mounted. The cause: a breakdown of the signal communication system that controls train movement at the Queens interlocking west of Belmont. Adding to the problem was the all-too-typical failure to communicate.

Incredibly, an LIRR tweet just after 1 p.m. said, “Belmont trains are not affected.”

One person replied, “Then why are we sitting on our Belmont train for nearly an hour at Jamaica?”

Getting a tweet right, or correcting it when it is wrong, should be easy. The LIRR has to be able to do the small things right, even as it tackles its larger problems.

LIRR officials noted that they had personnel in place to deal with Saturday’s troubles, and that trains ran well after the race. And the Belmont Stakes presents unique circumstances not comparable with anything the LIRR typically faces, or with Belmont’s development plans.

Nonetheless, this was a missed opportunity for the LIRR to show its best side. Instead, equipment and communication breakdowns ruled the day.

LIRR president Phil Eng said he will look into adding redundancies so if one system fails, another can take over. That’s important. And the recent failures show again why his LIRR Forward plan is necessary. Trains were supposed to outpace horses long ago.