WESTPORT, Conn. (AP) _ Downed wires stranded nearly 200 passengers on the nation’s second-busiest commuter railroad for about two hours in 10-degree weather in Connecticut, and crews worked in frigid temperatures Thursday to repair the problem.
A train snarled century-old catenary wires shortly before 9 p.m. Wednesday between the East Norwalk and Green’s Farms stations, a five-mile stretch of railroad about 45 miles northeast of New York City. Another train was nearby, but couldn’t get close enough to rescue passengers because of a weather-related switch failure, said Marjorie Anders, a spokeswoman for the railroad, Metro-North. The second train finally made it to the stranded passengers at about 11 p.m.
It was about 10 degrees outside when the train lost both power and heat. But the rail cars were warm beforehand, and temperatures inside never dipped below freezing, Anders said.
“The trains retained enough warmth and were safe for all passengers,” Anders said. “The passengers were checked during the delay for any issues. Every commuter was interviewed. … The customers were calm– not happy, but calm.”
Some passengers tweeted that riders were angry but that it wasn’t too cold.
The downed overhead line in Westport also caused delays of up to half an hour on the New Haven Line during the Thursday morning commute and was expected to be repaired by 1 p.m., hours ahead of the evening commute, Anders said.
Metro-North service, ridden by tens of thousands of people in the densely populated suburbs north of New York City and into Connecticut, had a few other problems Thursday morning. Disabled equipment disrupted service on both the Danbury branch in Connecticut and the Hudson Line north of New York City. Bus service was provided on the Danbury branch, while Hudson Line northbound trains were unable make a few stops for a while.
The town’s first selectman, James Marpe, did not immediately return a call seeking information on whether the town has any responsibility to handle problems on the Metro-North rail line.
Anders said frigid temperatures can cause problems with Metro-North’s aging equipment, including making catenary wires more taut and fragile.
“This is not … the first winter we’ve had weather-related problems,” she said. “It’s fairly normal and we are managing through.”
The breakdown was in the same area where a Metro-North train was stranded due to extreme heat in July 2011, said John Hartwell, vice chairman of an advocacy group, the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council. Passengers, sweltering in cars with no air conditioning, removed emergency windows and fled the train to walk along the tracks.
Metro-North said at the time that the problem was due to overhead wires that sag in extreme heat and become tangled in mechanical arms on top of the train cars.
Hartwell also questioned why no local police or rescue vehicles from Westport arrived Wednesday night.
Metro-North has been under heavy scrutiny by government officials and commuters after a series of problems and accidents over the past year, including a derailment that killed four people in New York last month, the death of a track worker in Connecticut in May and a failed electrical circuit that disrupted service on the heavily traveled New Haven Line for 12 days last fall.
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