Last night — for 2 hours — train travel throughout the region ground to a halt. Grand Central turned into the world’s largest waiting room.
Unfortunately for Metro-North, it was the 2nd straight night of trouble. The previous evening, a train with 200 or so passengers stopped between Saugatuck and Green’s Farms stations. It took a couple of hours for the (unheated) passengers to reach safety.
Today, Metro-North has issued an explanation — and apology — for last night’s fiasco. It may not make you feel better, but here’s what happened:
The two-hour disruption in service you experienced last evening traced to human error during an electrical repair project.
The computers that run the railroad’s signal system lost reliable power at 7:45 PM when one of two main power supply units was taken out of service for replacement. Technicians performing the work did not realize that a wire was disconnected on the other main power supply unit. This destabilized the power supply system for more than an hour until a backup supply could be connected.
At the time this incident occurred, there were more than 50 trains at various locations on all three lines. While the cause of this power problem was being identified and repairs were being made, Rail Traffic Controllers immediately took the safest course of action. They instructed all train engineers, via radio, to bring their trains to the nearest station. This had to be done slowly, train-by-train, to ensure everyone’s safety. Trains were not allowed to proceed through switches until signal maintainers could respond and manually ensure the switches were lined up correctly.
All trains had light, heat and power during the disruption, and no customers were ever in danger. Customers were able to get off trains when they reached a station.
Repairs were made by 9 PM. Once repairs were made, the computers needed to reboot before we could begin running trains again. Trains began moving again by 9:30 PM. Full control over the signal system was re-established by 10:30 PM. Significant delays continued throughout the evening hours.
This project should have been analyzed for risks and redundancy before it began, and it should have been performed in the middle of the night over a weekend, not when thousands of customers were trying to get home in cold weather. While this specific incident has been addressed and an internal review is underway, we are also bringing in an independent consultant to examine how and why these mistakes were made, and to recommend any necessary changes to operating procedures and practices.
Metro-North customers deserve better. We sincerely regret this incident and apologize for the inconvenience our customers experienced.