Video Report by Crystal Hall, Fox CT
Text by Nicholas Rondinone, The Hartford Courant
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, along with state transportation Commissioner James Redeker and other officials, announced a plan to replace transformers that will increase power and could prevent power failures on a line that has faced issues over the past year.
“We need a system that is in good repair,” Malloy said.”I want to ensure riders have as safe and reliable a commute as possible.”
Malloy said he has been working to increase investments to the railroad that he says have been lacking for 30 years.
The state, Metro-North Commuter Railroad and Connecticut Light & Power will work together to replace older equipment in Cos Cob. The upgrades, Malloy said, will almost double the power capacity of the transformers.
“It will give us more power to power additional service with our [new cars] but it will also provide redundancy,” Redeker said during a news conference on the platform of the New Haven Line at Union Station.
Officials said the new transformers would prevent a power failure similar to the one that crippled service for more than a week on the New Haven Line in September when there was power failure at substation in Mount Vernon, N.Y.
“Because of lessons learned by Metro-North during a serious disruption to New Haven Line service last fall during a power upgrade to the power supply at Mount Vernon, the work at Cos Cob is being done in stages and a comprehensive contingency plan has been developed,” Metro-North Senior Vice President for Operations John Kesich said in a statement.
The transformers, Redeker said, will be replaced in two phases that will be about 16 days each.
Metro-North faced problems in the past year including a collision in May that resulted in more than 70 rider injuries and delays on the New Haven Line; a rail worker was killed near West Haven in May; a derailment on a separate line in the Bronx that killed four people in December; and other smaller issues including another temporary outage last month.
“There needs to be better sense of urgency in communicating news and updates among senior management when an issue occurs on the New Haven Line; immediate communications with the officials at every level of state government; and we must keep the public fully informed on a minute-to-minute basis,” Malloy said.
The governor, along with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, who joined Malloy in New Haven on Sunday, have been critical of Metro-North following the incidents over the past year.
“We simply cannot afford to have a system that our commuters do not have faith in,” Malloy said.
Blumenthal, a member of the Senate committee on commerce, science and transportation, held a congressional hearing in October on Metro-North problems.
“Connecticut owns these tracks. Connecticut today is meeting its responsibility to upgrade infrastructure,” Blumenthal said. “The elephant on the tracks here is Metro-North. Where is the MTA in its investment and its meeting its responsibilities and where is Congress in making the vital commitment that today Connecticut is demonstrating?”
He added that the problems with the railroad go beyond physical infrastructure; he and other officials agreed that there needs to be an overhaul in the way Metro-North does business.
“We need Congress, we need New York, we need Metro-North to step up and do their part to ensure that our … passengers travel rapidly and safely,” said Esty, who asked several times for a rail passenger safety bill to be called in Congress.
Later this month, Malloy has a planned meeting with the new president of Metro-North, Joe Giulietti, and Metropolitan Transportation Authority CEO Thomas F. Prendergast to discuss concerns he has with the system.
“Joe Giulietti and I look forward to this meeting, which will give all of us a chance to discuss challenges and opportunities for the thousands of customers we serve every day,” Prendergast said in a statement.