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An Important Message From Metro-North President Howard Permut On Reduced New Haven Line Service

 

To Our New Haven Line Customers:

The extreme winter weather's repeated pummeling of the region has had a devastating impact on our New Haven Line.

Significant car shortages due to record-breaking amounts of snow and extreme cold have forced us to operate all our trains with fewer than scheduled cars. We have also had to cancel trains which exacerbate the problem and reduce the reliability of your commute.

 

 

The situation is dire. On a daily basis, there are close to 150 (40%) cars out of service on the New Haven Line. Our employees are working around-the-clock to get damaged equipment back into service. However, with each new weather event, more weather-damaged cars arrive in our shops in need of repair. The service we have been providing has been far less than what you have come to expect from us and we strive to provide you. It is time for us to take additional steps to improve our reliability.

The problems with our fleet created by its age—almost 70 percent of our electric fleet is over 40 years old—and the unprecedented winter weather are numerous. The cars were designed in a manner that made key components extremely vulnerable to snow. These components include:

  • Traction motors, which must be repaired or replaced -; a job that routinely takes six or more hours to complete.
  • Brakes, which freeze and get stuck from the extreme cold.
  • Doors, which won't close properly because the snow and ice that gets inside the door pockets prevents them from opening or closing on command.

Further complicating our efforts is the fact that shop space is limited. Our employees do not let this limitation stop them, working outside the shops, crawling under cars in the snow and extreme cold to repair components. The work is demanding, and progress is slow and hard won. Every day repaired equipment goes into service, and every day more weather damaged cars arrive in need of repair.

Crews have also focused their efforts on removing snow from pantographs on top of rail cars, digging out our rail yards, and clearing snow and ice from track switches.

Another factor working against us is the line's aging infrastructure. A significant portion of the catenary on the New Haven Line is over 100 years old. Further, we currently have tracks out of service to replace this system, which severely limits our operating flexibility and creates additional delays. And the line's equally old movable bridges tend not to move as well when impacted by the cold and snow.

The arrival of the new M8 rail cars will improve this situation in the future. At this point you may be wondering when that might be. We assure you that the testing of the new M8 pilot cars continues; however this is a highly complex car with much computer technology. As we identify problems in testing—mostly related to complex software—we effect a fix and need to retest, and the testing has been delayed by the snowstorms. While we are disappointed with the progress in getting these cars into revenue service, the process cannot be rushed. We will put the cars into revenue service when we are confident that they operate both safely and reliably, and we remain hopeful that this will occur in the first quarter of 2011.

Given our continuing equipment shortages and the need to improve reliability of our service, we have issued a Reduced Winter Schedule, effective February 7 through March 4. This schedule reduces weekday AM and PM peak service by approximately 10 percent. A Sunday Schedule will be in effect both Saturdays and Sundays beginning February 5.

In developing this schedule, we have taken a number of factors into account, including the number of cars available for service, ridership patterns and our ability to operate the new schedule reliably.

The schedule is available on Metro-North's schedules page (in the interactive schedule and in PDF form), and on Metro-North Train Time. Our train crews and customer service representatives will be available to assist you, answer questions and make sure you are as comfortable as possible during your crowded commute. You can also contact our Customer Information Center at 212-532-4900.

I am well aware that we are not offering the full complement of service on which you have come to rely. There will be crowding on trains and reliability of the service will be difficult to maintain. You want us to revert to our regular schedule as soon as possible. So do we. Although we are unable to do that as quickly as either you or we would want, we are working toward that goal.

Please look for service updates via our website or by signing up for email alerts at http://www.mymtaalerts.com/

Again, we regret any inconvenience you may have experienced and appreciate your patience during what has been a very frustrating period for us all.

Sincerely,

Howard Permut
President, MTA Metro-North Railroad