Most Metro-North rail service to N.Y. suspended for three to four weeks

Wednesday’s power failure on the Metro-North rail line means most Connecticut commuters will need to find alternate transportation to New York City for at least next three weeks, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced.

During a late afternoon press conference at the state armory in Hartford, the governor said a relief plan using diesel-powered rail cars will replace only about 30 percent of the lost capacity on the nation’s busiest commuter line.

“Hopefully that is a worst-case scenario,” Malloy told reporters after announcing a major disruption in service could persist for the next three to four weeks. “This is going to be a substantial disruption for a substantial period of time.”

Full details on the problem weren’t available late Wednesday afternoon. But the Metropolitan Transit Authority announced that a 138,000-volt feeder line that serves the rail system between Mount Vernon and Harrison, N.Y. lost power around 5:20 a.m.

Malloy said Con Edison, the utility that serves this section of the system, has been working with the MTA, but hadn’t yet determined the cause by late afternoon. That’s because the line that failed normally is superheated, and cannot be properly inspected until subjected to an intense cooling process.

“I don’t think the folks in New York have an answer to that question right now,” Malloy said.

Metro-North will continue to operate rail service in electric-powered cars between New Haven and Stamford, he said. At the latter stop, a limited number of diesel-powered cars will be available starting Thursday to carry passengers as far as Grand Central Station in Manhattan.

But the governor added that this contingency service would only offer enough cars to provide about 30 percent of the normal capacity.

“It’s a very limited train service,” Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker said. “This is a serious, perhaps prolonged, outage. For now, the morning is going to be difficult. We apologize.”

An estimated 125,000 commuters ride the Metro-North service at various points on a daily basis.

“Needless to say I am frustrated,” the governor said, adding that he has urged MTA officials that “they need to come forward with a plan” to reimburse consumers who have purchased rail passes.

Malloy urged commuters to prepare contingency plans such as:

  • Working from home, if possible.
  • Traveling by highway as part of a car pool.
  • Or planning to stay in New York for an extended period of time.

The governor also asked Redeker to evaluate any repair work planned for the state’s major arteries in the southwest corner to minimize any impact on increased vehicular traffic.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., called Wednesday for greater government investment in rail transportation.

“Whether it is service disruptions due to power failures, weather or catastrophes such as the Bridgeport derailment, we must invest in robust, redundant systems to ensure that our rail system runs on time, all the time,” Blumenthal said. “Service disruptions like the one this morning will be increasingly frequent and severe if the nation fails to make necessary investments. Such delays and disruptions cannot be allowed to become the new normal.”

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