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Long Island Rail Road goes off track again

Commuters at Jamaica station Monday morning. Eight LIRR

Commuters at Jamaica station Monday morning. Eight LIRR trains were canceled because of work continuing after Saturday's derailment at the West Side Yards. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Despite promises of improved communication and candor with riders, the Long Island Rail Road went back to its old ways this weekend when President Phil Eng chose to wait more than 24 hours to tell the public about a train derailment at the West Side Yard Saturday.

No passengers were on the train, no one was seriously hurt and the partial derailment didn’t hurt weekend service; however, for Monday morning’s commute, eight trains were canceled or diverted, with similar changes to the afternoon rush. Eng said he waited to tell riders until he had specific details. But there was no justification for the delay. Eng, who spent Saturday evening and Sunday at the site, told Amtrak, Metro-North and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, but waited until Sunday night before informing riders or the public.

In the past, the LIRR too often didn’t disclose a problem in the hopes it could be solved or mitigated first. It preferred the shadows. That’s not the right strategy. The LIRR should be forthright when something goes wrong. And had the LIRR told riders sooner, they would have had more time to make alternative arrangements. We still don’t know the cause of Saturday’s incident. The LIRR is often quick to point fingers at Amtrak, the weather, fallen leaves or even an errant GPS when things go wrong and it’s someone else’s fault. Hiding a problem is not a wise course.