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Metro-North Cites Human Error For Train Shutdown Thursday

Metro-North says human error is to blame for the systemwide service interruption on Thursday, Jan. 24.
Metro-North says human error is to blame for the systemwide service interruption on Thursday, Jan. 24. Photo Credit: Suzanne Samin

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. -- Metro-North cited human error during an electrical repair project as the reason for the service interruption that stopped all trains in Fairfield County on Thursday, Jan. 23.

“Last night’s failure was unacceptable, pure and simple,” Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said. “The project should have been analyzed for risks and redundancy before it began, and it should not have been performed when thousands of customers were trying to get home in cold weather.”

The two-hour disruption in service traced to human error during an electrical repair project, Metro-North said in a statement released Friday.

Computers tied to the system lost reliable power at 7:45 p.m when one of the two main power supply units was taken out for replacement, the statement said. Technicians did not realize a wire on the other power supply unit was disconnected.

The power disruption forced more than 50 trains on all three lines were forced to stop at the nearest stations and wait until a backup power supply could be connected.

At the time, more than 50 trains were at various locations on the New Haven, Harlem and Hudson lines in New York and Connecticut.

While repairs were being made, Rail Traffic Controllers "instructed all train engineers, via radio, to bring their trains to the nearest station," Metro-North said. "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 during the outage, according to Metro-North.

Repairs were made by 9 p.m. and trains began moving by 9:30 p.m., but delays persisted 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," Metro-North said. The railroad said an internal review was underway, and an independent consultant was examining how and why these mistakes were made.

“Metro-North customers deserve better, and I extend my sincere apology to all of them,” Prendergast said. “I have directed Metro-North to bring in an independent consultant to examine how and why these mistakes were made, and to recommend any necessary changes to operating procedures to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.”

Click here to read the full Metro-North statement.