BRIDGEPORT — Sen. Richard Blumenthal brought plenty of questions Monday to a Congressional subcommittee hearing about the Metro-North crisis in September, but by late morning wasn’t getting many answers.
Con Edison, the power utility whose power station feeder cable failed Sept. 25 during a major maintenance project, admitted “something went wrong,” but said it still hasn’t determined the precise cause.
Utility President Craig Ivey also said it would be unfair to his customers to bear the expense of reimbursing Amtrak, Metro-North or others who lost revenue during days of shutdowns and reduced service.
Ivey told Blumenthal the maintenance project was commissioned by Metro-North, and said Con Ed can’t be held financially responsible for the failure.
“It was your equipment that failed. So why should you not cover the cost?,” Blumenthal said during an hours-long hearing in city hall’s chambers.
“Our employees were following documented, time-tested procedures. We have not seen this (before),” Ivey said. “I understand this was an absolute inconvenience to the folks of Connecticut and New York.”
Blumenthal said it’s the “ethical if not legal responsibility” of Con Ed to reimburse Metro-North and Amtrak. Metro-North said its losses were between $8 and $12 million.
Trains between Stamford and New York City on the first few of days were entirely out of service, and operated on a severely reduced scheduled for another week or so while a patchwork repair was installed.
ConEd said the responsibility for a backup plan should have rested with Metro-North, which owns the power station. Metro-North officials emphasized that without power, the four-trackNew Haven line simply can’t operate at anywhere near full service – a few diesel trains and buses aren’t nearly sufficient to replace the fleet of hundreds of rail cars that can’t run without electric service.
The overriding theme of the hearing was the New Haven line – and most of Amtrak’s busily used Northeast Corridor – has suffered from decades of underfunding. And old power substations are only part of it.
“I’m always concerned about infrastructure on the New Haven line” including century-old bridges, drawbridges, catenary and more, Metro-North President Howard Permut said.