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Malloy: ‘Catastrophic Failure’ On Metro-North New Haven Line

Governor Takes Metro-North To Task For Lack Of Planning

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy on Thursday called the power failure “horrendous” and said he remains frustrated by what’s likely to be an extended service disruption on Metro-North’s New Haven line.

“There appears to have been little plan for this type of catastrophic failure,” Malloy said.

Speaking from Grand Central Terminal on Thursday evening, the governor said Metro-North is working to partially restore electrical service to the New Haven line. That could happen as early as Saturday, Malloy said.

“We’ll continue to put as much pressure on the system and those responsible to make sure we have a quicker turnaround,” Malloy said.

Full Video: Gov. Dannel Malloy Speaks At Grand Central Terminal

He said the partial power offers substantially less voltage than usual, and it remains unclear how many trains at a time the line would be able to handle.

Officials were working Thursday to find alternative power sources to end delays that could last for weeks after a high-voltage feeder cable failed early Wednesday at a Mount Vernon station, knocking out power to the railroad’s New Haven line.

One of the feeders was out of service because of pre-planned upgrades.

The original feed was scheduled to come back online on Oct. 14, but Malloy said there are reasons to believe that timeframe could be moved up by a week.

However, he noted that there are reasons to believe that other failures could occur.

The governor also called on the commuter rail service to compensate the affected customers for the lack of service.

“This is not an act of God…this is a failure for one reason or another of the system,” Malloy said. “I have 125,000 people whose lives are being disrupted because of that failure and I believe that they need to be reimbursed in some way at some time with respect to that disruption in service.”

Metro-North New Haven line commuters suffered through a second day of platform pacing and widespread delays Thursday.

A number of commuters were forced to devise alternate routes, CBS 2’s Tracee Carrasco reported.

“I got up earlier. Went to White Plains, got a cab to White Plains train station then got the White Plains to Grand Central train and I left work about three hours earlier,” Charlie Dor said.

Things were not much easier for Heather Sweeny.

“Well the White Plains component is our of the way by 10 to 15 miles, half an hour,” she said.

There are more trains running than there were Wednesday evening’s commute, but there is still a long wait for passengers to actually squeeze aboard.

As CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported, riders can only throw up their hands in frustration.

“It’s overcrowded, nowhere to get on to it, standing-room only and they’re bulging out of the doors. So we’ll take the next one,” a commuter said.

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“Needless to say, I am frustrated at this situation and continue to press the folks at Con Ed and Metro-North to fix it as quickly as possible,” Malloy said in a statement Thursday.

To help ease traffic congestion, Malloy has ordered a stop to all routine roadway maintenance in lower Fairfield County, specifically on I-95, the Merritt Parkway, Route 1, Route 7, Route 123 and other busier secondary roads.

“Until the problems are alleviated, we need to take whatever steps we can to help mitigate congestion on roadways,” Malloy said.

Routine maintenance being halted includes mowing, patching, catch basin brush clearing, tree trimming and line painting.

Bridge maintenance that requires lane closure for the safety of workers is being done at night and night work will stop by 6 a.m.

The broken circuit could take two to three weeks to repair, Con Edison said.

“One, there was a feeder that was out of service because of upgrades that Metro-North was doing to one of their new substations, they’re upgrading and so one feeder was taken out of service. The other one just went out because of an oil leak and that left them no power at least from us,” Con Ed spokesman Mike Clendenin said.

As WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau reported, Con Ed said it is working to substitute a source of power to get things rolling by providing electricity to overhead catenery wires.

“That is the solution that we’re looking at, because the repair for this type of cable, the feeder that went out, typically is a two to three week repair,” Con Ed spokesman Bob McGee told WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau.

McGee said work is ongoing with Metro-North get trains rolling as soon as possible.

“We’re working on alternatives to get power back sooner. So we’re just trying different things. Our engineers are meeting with their engineers and we’re just looking at different alternatives in terms of getting the power supply back sooner,” he told Schneidau.

It is still unknown what caused the power failure. The feeder cable that failed will be tested to determine what went wrong, said McGee.

“Our focus is on getting that broken feeder back into service as quickly as we can. But we have another focus going on and that’s to provide an alternate source of power to the tracks so that we can get the trains back running a lot quicker,” said Clendenin.

In the meantime, Metro-North said limited bus and train service is being provided for the New Haven line.

Only one diesel train is running every half hour from Stamford to Grand Central Terminal in both directions.

Bus service is being provided on the Waterbury branch and limited shuttle train service will operate on the Danbury and New Canaan Branches.

The agency said its service plans can only accommodate about 33 percent of the regular ridership and is urging customers to stay at home or find alternative services.

“This is going to be a substantial disruption for a substantial period of time,” Malloy said Wednesday. “Folks, plan on long-term lack of service or being underserved.”

Drivers spent much of the morning at a standstill along Interstate 95 as tens of thousands of Metro-North commuters scrambled for other routes between Connecticut and New York City.

Metro-North president Howard Permut said the system is working reasonably well, considering the limitations.

“We had to write the schedule, develop the schedule. We had to get the cars in the right place, we have cars from Poughkeepsie running on the New Haven Line today,” he told WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane.

Permut said if some power is restored through the dead stretch, there could be additional service. But it remains unclear when that might happen.

“There’s a certain amount of power we need to run a regular schedule. If we get a portion of that, then we would run a portion of a regular schedule,” said Permut. “We are hopeful that we will be able to run more trains than this within a few days. I don’t have a date yet from Con Ed when we can go back to full service.”

At Grand Central Thursday, ticket windows for the New Haven line were closed. Commuters who rode other lines said those trains were more crowded than usual.

During the height of the morning commute, one train was canceled and others were up to a half an hour late, causing frustrated passengers to wait on packed platforms.

“I’m just trying to get through the next two days,” said commuter Pete Hartney.

“It is chaotic, confusing, tiring,” said passenger Sherna Channer. “I want to get to work.”

“If I started complaining about every time Metro-North was delayed, I’d be in big trouble,” Southport commuter Robert Bilinki said.

As CBS 2’s Vanessa Murdock reported, commuters who waited until after 9 a.m. seemed to have a much easier ride Thursday morning.

“My total commute time, including the buses and everything else, I’m only an extra half hour,” Russell Mason of Greenwich said. “It was so well organized. My compliments to the MTA, to the police that were there.”

“I’m planning two hours ahead to get to my meetings so hopefully I’ll elbow my way onto this train,” Beth Avitabile said.

But other Metro-North customers said the railroad needs a better backup plan for these types of issues.

“This one, they got caught with their pants down. They had no clue this was happening,” Norwalk commuter Drew Todd said. “They just don’t seem to learn and they treat the New Haven line like a red-headed step child.”

Amtrak said it would offer limited service between New York and Boston because of the power problem.

Amtrak Acela Express service will not operate through Sunday, September 29, between New York and Boston.  Amtrak will continue to provide Northeast Regional service operating under diesel power through the affected area.

Additional cars have been added to Northeast Regional trains to add capacity to accommodate Acela Express passengers traveling between New York and Boston.  Passengers should expect delays of up to 90 minutes due to the continued diesel operation.

Acela Express and Northeast Regional trains will operate normally between New York and Washington, D.C.

Amtrak said Thursday it is coordinating with Metro-North Railroad and local authorities, and will resume normal operations as quickly and safely as possible when advised that power is restored.

This is the third time in recent months Metro-North riders have faced major disruptions.

In July, ten cars from a freight train derailed between Metro-North’s Spuyten Duyvil and Marble Hill stations, causing several days of delays.

In May, two Metro-North trains collided near Fairfield, Conn., injuring dozens of passengers.

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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)