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Monday, April 28, 2014

Metro-North Announces New Timetables

UPDATE (adds availability of schedules, other details) Metro-North Railroad today announced new timetables effective Sunday, May 11, that it said are designed to provide substantially improved performance and reliability while accommodating new safety measures. It said some rides will be shorter, some longer.

An announcement said on the the New Haven, Hudson and Harlem Lines, 96 percent of inbound AM peak customers will have a shorter commute compared to the current timetables, which were implemented last November. The figure is 83 percent for the New Haven Line only, according to Metro-North.

The new timetables will be posted on the Metro-North website in a couple of days, said Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders. The paper timetables will be back from the printers on May 5 at the latest, and they will be distributed to ticket offices immediately, she said.

“Our first goal, now and always, is to provide a safe service,” said Metro-North President Joseph Giulietti, who appeared last week at a train forum in Westport. “This train schedule supports our ongoing efforts to serve our customers while providing our maintenance forces the time they need to inspect, maintain and repair the system.”

Metro-North said the schedule “accounts for actual operating conditions and new mandatory speed restrictions and will be more reliable for customers at intermediate stops as well as at final destinations. While some trip times will decrease and others will increase, all will be more predictable.”

“Since I returned to Metro-North two months ago, our customers have consistently said they want to be able to rely on our schedules again and that’s exactly what these changes aim to do,” Giulietti said. 

“We have analyzed train performance with an eye to bottlenecks, permanent speed reductions, actual running times, customer requests and the need to provide sufficient time to allow ongoing track and infrastructure improvements.  We believe the new schedule will result in substantially improved performance.”

According to a memo from Giulietti, the travel time for most New Haven Line customers is up to two minutes shorter inbound, and one minute shorter to six minutes longer outbound, than the current schedule. Of AM peak New Haven Line customers in Connecticut, 83 percent will have a faster trip inbound to Grand Central than the current schedule, he said.

Only 12 percent will have a slower inbound trip with the remaining 5 percent seeing no change to their inbound current commute times—AM Peak defined as trains scheduled to arrive GCT before 10 a.m.

Giulietti said New Haven Line customers will experience the greatest number of schedule changes, mostly as a result of safety-related compliance with the Federal Railroad Administration’s Emergency Order 29 issued in December. 

In addition, adjustments have been made based on analysis of actual performance data compared to schedule,  infrastructure/capacity improvements, customer requests, and to mitigate a service guidelines compliance issue.

He said explained that because of the nature of the New Haven Line’s geography, there are significantly more locations where cab signal enforcement of speed restrictions and mitigation of speed reductions must take place in compliance with Emergency Order 29.

At two curves and five bridges, cab signals enforce speed restrictions, resulting in a de facto lengthening of the restrictions, in some cases significantly. In total, these changes result in up to six minutes of additional running time for trains traveling between New Haven and New York. In many cases however, the impact of this increase in travel times for specific trains has been mitigated through travel time savings on other parts of the line.

Giulietti said an in-depth review of New Haven Line schedules revealed that trains were consistently unable to make their schedule between West Haven and Milford; between Fairfield Metro and Southport; and between Rowayton and Noroton Heights. Schedule adjustments, on the order of one minute at each of the three locations, are being made to bring the schedule in line with actual operating performance, he said.

The new timetable reestablishes traditional AM Peak arrival times at Grand Central Terminal. Schedule changes made last summer resulted in many trains arriving later and customers shifted to earlier trains. The new timetable will undo those changes, the railroad said.

The schedule allows for ongoing, infrastructure repair and maintenance in the midday off-peak and at nights and on weekends, Metro-North said.  In the past 12 months, an intensive and accelerated track improvement program was begun following the May 17, 2013 derailment in Bridgeport.

In the Bronx, all four tracks have been improved so that allowable speeds will be restored to 75 mph before the new timetable takes effect on May 11, the railroad said.

Next month also will mark the first time in four years that all four tracks in the eight-mile section between Bridgeport and Southport will be in service, according to the railroad.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation contractors have replaced the overhead catenary wires that power the trains and rebuilt four bridges that carry the tracks over local roads.  This work had required two of the four tracks to be out of service continuously, and had required trains to slow down while passing the work zone and when changing tracks at either end of the construction area, Metro-North said.

It said the impact of having all tracks available for service in this key area will be increased flexibility in scheduling trains during peak periods, the elimination of temporary speed restrictions and less impact to trains when there are operational problems in this section of the railroad. The catenary work resumes in August, but in two locations where only one track will be out of service at a time.

Metro-North said other service changes include an additional AM peak express train from New Haven by extending a train that currently runs from New Haven to Stamford only. It will now depart New Haven at 6:02 a.m., stop at Stamford at 7 a.m., and be extended to Grand Central Terminal, arriving at 7:50 a.m.

In response to today’s announcement, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy expressed disappointment.

“While a step in the right direction, the new schedule falls short on delivering commitments to increase the frequency of trains and minimize travel time,” he said in a statement. “It’s been almost a full year since the derailment in Bridgeport and since then, New Haven Line customers have been enduring longer, less reliable train service.

“Metro-North has placed the appropriate priority on rebuilding and maintaining the New Haven Line to ensure safety as its number one goal, and in turn Connecticut has completed a major portion of upgrades to the overhead catenary power lines and railroad bridges, along with several power supply upgrade and redundancy projects.

“It is time to implement a schedule that takes advantage of the safety and infrastructure investments to deliver safe and reliable service that strives to achieve an on-time performance goal of at least 95 percent. This can be accomplished while sustaining safety as the over-arching priority. The schedule should deliver that service, even as it creates the necessary time slots or windows for all required maintenance.  Safe, reliable, frequent and fast service are mutually achievable goals.”

He added, “I have the commitments of MTA Chairman and CEO Tom Prendergast and Metro-North President Joe Giulietti that they will work directly with our Department of Transportation over the next few months to prepare schedule proposals that go beyond today’s changes, with an eye toward even better service by the fall.”

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Posted 04/28/14 at 02:32 PM



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