And Now, A Word From Metro-North…

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.

Metro-North logoThe 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.

Train station drop shadowRepairs 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.

9 responses to “And Now, A Word From Metro-North…

  1. Bobbie Herman

    Oh, I’m so glad I don’t commute any more.

  2. John Hartwell

    “until a backup supply could be connected”?????

    Backup systems are supposed to constantly monitor power needs and respond immediately if there’s an interruption. No one designs a “backup system” that depends on someone realizing there’s a problem and then finding the switch to kick in the generator.

    This is unbelievable, or it true, monstrously inept. Neither is comforting.

    John Hartwell
    Vice Chair, CT Commuter Rail Council

    • Nice to see you on News 12, John. Derailments in Bridgeport, many injuries, rail worker killed in New Haven, power outages for nearly two weeks, and all that in less than a year. Safety and reliability? We’re right if we’re seeing a worrisome pattern here. No wonder Permut is stepping down.

  3. If this isn’t the full definition of incompetence, I don’t know what is. WOW!

    Charlie Haberstroh
    (Who is also glad he doesn’t have to commute by rail anymore!)

  4. Steven M. Alter

    I was one who had to seek another option last night rather then getting home to my family here in Westport.
    This is a primitive system that has needed modern day updates for decades. I am concerned with every weather forecast of a subsequent windy day that we can expect wire damage and delays.
    It is time for the people to be heard and to not continue acting like sheep and accepting this archaic system.
    The MTA raises our fares and what do we get for that?

    What are we all going to do about it?

  5. And it continues. Just heard that, at the moment, Track 2 is “broken,” and the 6:31 “may take awhile to depart.”

  6. This is great and all… and obviously sh*t happens. BUT… now I’m out $65 with the taxi I had to take to Westport. MTA was pretty good about giving the discount for when the big power outage happened… so why not for smaller cases like this?

  7. Peter Gambaccini

    Truth be told,the sorry state of the New Haven line is the main reason I don’t visit Westport very often anymore. I’ve gotten stranded there on wintry days and on sweltering ones.

  8. You’re so cool! I don’t think I’ve read anything like that before.
    So nice to find someone with a few original thoughts on this issue.
    Really.. thanks for starting this up. This web site is something that’s needed on the web, someone with some originality!