Track inspections and work following a May Metro-North train derailment have delayed train departures and travel times on the New Haven Line by as much as 10 minutes.
In response to the May 17 derailment, new equipment is being used to identify necessary track maintenance to ensure rider safety. But with more inspections and repair work, on top of scheduled Bronx track improvements, commuters are seeing late trains and slower rides.
For three days in late August, track work in Greenwich caused trains to arrive 10 to 20 minutes late, said Jim Cameron, the former chairman of the CT Metro-North Rail Commuter Council. And with little communication about expected delays, Cameron said he’s received dozens of angry emails.
“When the train says it’s going to leave at 7:03 and arrive at Grand Central at 7:35, it usually does,” Cameron said. “But with this track work, everything is screwed up.”
A new schedule has been posted to reflect expected delays as of Aug. 19. Printed schedules will be available after Labor Day.
Federal officials are still investigating the cause of the derailment but initial reports show the accident occurred near a rail joint in Fairfield without adequate support. Roughly 73 passengers were injured in the derailment after an oncoming train collided with the derailed cars.
A track inspection two days before the derailment uncovered signs of movement near the joint, but a slower speed order had not been issued. At the time of the collision the trains where traveling 70 mph.
In response to the collision, Metro North officials hired Transportation Technology Center Inc. as a consultant for its track inspections, said Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders.
Using ground penetrating radars that monitor every inch of the tracks, inspectors are discovering new areas that need work and slowing trains to accommodate repairs. Anders declined to comment on whether the inspectors are discovering more issues than expected.
The inspections are being funded through Metro-North’s operating budget.
Though the delays can be frustrating, Cameron said he was glad to see the railroad taking additional safety precautions.
“If we learned anything from that accident, it’s that we have got to take care of the tracks,” said Cameron. “If it needs to be repaired, there’s evidently going to be delays. It’s inconvenient to riders. But consider the alternatives. What do you want? A fast train or a safe train?”
However, the MTA could do more to communicate with riders about delays, he said, especially when riders pay more than $300 a month to ride the train.
“The average rider thinks service is deteriorating,” Cameron said. “The problem is that the railroad isn’t doing enough to communicate the necessity of this work.”
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