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Riders Skeptical Over LIRR Service Restoration

LIRR passengers board train. (credit: AP)

LIRR passengers board train. (credit: AP)

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MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBS 2 / WCBS 880/1010 WINS) – For the first time in a week, Long Island Railroad riders were being told to expect a normal commute — both in the morning and evening.

“We have restored the system to it’s full and safe operating capacity,” said LIRR CEO Helena Williams.

By the height of the morning rush, “Good Service” was posted next to every train line on the LIRR website.

LISTEN: WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs reports from Hicksville
LISTEN: 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports from Mineola

That’s music to the ears of thousands of commuters who have dealt with delays and cancellations since service was disrupted by a fire in a switching tower near the Jamaica Station one week ago.

However, some riders remain skeptical. “I’m not too sure about that,” one said.

“I’ll have to believe them and keep my fingers crossed,” another added.

Passengers had their fingers crossed for seven days while crews worked round the clock , repairing hundreds of damaged wires, then testing and re-testing the switches.

For some commuters, it was a maddening situation that, in retrospect, could have been dealt with differently.

“It could have been worse, but it could have been better as well. It could have been better handled,” one rider said.

For customers who fear a reoccurance of this commuting nightmare, LIRR officials said this Fall, a new $56 million computerized control center will replace several of the outdated towers.

“Safety is always our No. 1 priority for our customers and our employees,” Williams said. “These modernization projects will help ensure that we are moving toward the latest technology available to control train traffic safety and efficiently. In the event of a fire like the one that occurred last week, the new systems give us greater redundancy, better surge protection and improved diagnostic ability to isolate and fix problems.”

Meantime, officals expected no problems Monday morning.

“We are not confident that we can rely on the switching signal system that was severely damaged on Monday to once again control our trains as they move through Jamaica,” Williams said.

“While the new systems are a big improvement, more needs to be done to replace and update some of our old technology throughout the LIRR. That’s why we need a fully funded, five-year capital program.”

LIRR officials said about 200 wires were damaged in the fire, and once they were replaced, over 300 tests were run on the system over the weekend to make sure it was up to speed.