Rough commutes on the Long Island Rail Road could stretch into next week as it will be "several days" before service is back to normal following a fire in a switch tower that crippled 10 of 11 train lines.
The signal wiring that was at the heart of the problem was expected to be fixed by 8 p.m. last night, said LIRR Spokesman Joe Calderone. But the new wiring needs to be tested and it will be "several days" before full service has resumed, Williams said.
When asked if the limited service would extend into next week, Calderone would not answer.
Limited service was in effect for a third day Wednesday morning, and the same problems were expected this evening on the nation's largest commuter railroad. Thirty-three westbound trains did not run during the morning rush. Bus service replaced some trips.
LIRR President Helena Williams on Tuesday apologized for the delays and inconvenience. The commuter rail system carries about 265,000 daily riders -- and most of them aren't assauged by the railroad's apologies.
"They should have more up-to-date systems in place, but what are you going to do?" accountant Sophia Bentley said as she waited for a train in Farmingdale. "I'm going to get on the next one that gets here. Whenever I get one, I get one."
Ten of the railroad's 11 branches run through Jamaica Station, a major transfer point for commuters to or from Manhattan and Brooklyn and to various points on Long Island.
The switching system, due for a $60 million overhaul this fall, was built in the 1920s, LIRR spokesman Mike Charles said. It uses a system of levers, pulleys and pneumatics to move trains between tracks entering and exiting the Jamaica depot.
Eastbound and westbound trains maneuver through a spaghetti-like network of eight tracks, often stopping at the station to allow passengers to transfer to alternate trains heading to their final destination.
"Water may have gotten into the cables and something shorted out causing a power surge," Charles said.
At least 50 signal specialists and "track gangs" were working to repair the system, he said. More than 200 different wires and connections have to be tested separately.
"It's a tedious job, but it has to be done right," Charles said, adding that it may take "a couple of more days" before everything gets back to normal.
The LIRR will continue to provide updated Service Advisories as repairs progress. Customers should monitor the LIRR’s website (at www.mta.info/lirr) for these updates.
For up-to-date travel service information, customers can also contact the LIRR’s 24-hour Travel Information Center in Suffolk County at 631-231-LIRR, in Nassau County at 516-822-LIRR or in New York City at 718-217-LIRR. The Travel Information Center’s TDD telephone number for the hearing impaired is 718-558-3022.
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