Metro-North Cites Human Error For Train Shutdown Thursday

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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.

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If the republicans didn't divert the money for upgrades of the mass transit system to tax breaks for big oil this could have ben avoided. So yes Johnny unreal this is the fault of the criminal Bush and all the no good filthy republicans

Here we go again. Human error? Was that human's name George W. Bush?

Really miss the bar car. But even that won't fix things. Beloved Elected Officials: legislate for the community you serve, not their votes. Take a long hard look at the lack of civic planning in CT Transportation over the years. Decrepit interstates, dismal bus service, and a severe under use of existing trackage. One of the smallest states in the country and the longest of commutes. What about an affordable and interchangeable train system to every major city in CT. Would make 95, 91 and 84 a country road again (almost)

When they originally began to lay track they needed to claim a swath twice as wide as they did.. Same with I-95 and RT.15.

Time for action on this crisis. Metro North is obviously underfunded, and an immediate across-the-board pay increase is needed to get to the root of these problems.

It is time for an act of civil disobedience to shame/shine a light on the incompetents at the MTA. Refuse to show your ticket until the management at the MTA apologizes for the abysmal treatment of their customers and fires those responsible for the New Haven Line. Please be polite to the conductor, it isn't their fault. If we all do this the MTA won't have a choice.

I haven't used the trains as a commuter since the early 70's. Back then at least we had the Bar Car.