In case you have been on a vacation to Mars, Connecticut commuters have had a somewhat harsh winter of service delays, crowded cars, and equipment breakdowns of the New Haven line’s electric car fleet due to the equipment’ s vulnerability to winter conditions.
The latest blow has been the decision to begin a reduced schedule beginning this Monday, that cuts service by roughly 10 percent.
There is no simple way for Connecticut legislative historians to explain why the state did not have the vision to organize and fund work to replace the M-2 cars earlier this century as the fleet working past normal retirement age.
What is known is that Governor M Jodi Rell did order a fleet of more than 300 new railcars from Kawasaki Rail Corp. in 2005, following Metro-North’s so-called “winter of discontent” in 2004 in which 126 of 347 railcars konked out.
In response to the mechanical problems, the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council, a state appointed body that meets monthly to discuss the operation of the railroad, is hosting a commuter forum to “investigate Metro-North’s Winter Service crisis,” at 7 p.m., Feb. 16, at the Stamford Government Center, 888 Washington Boulevard.
“We especially want commuters who have suffered through recent weeks of delays, cancellations, and unheated cars to attend, share their experiences and get their questions answered,” Rail Council Vice Chairwoman Terri Cronin said. “The folks from Metro-North need to hear from their customers. But commuters also need to hear Metro-North explain their challenges in running a first class railroad with third-world equipment.”
The announcement goes on to attribute the true cause of the equipment crisis is the month’s late introduction of the new M-8 railcars, and the car’s manufacturer Kawasaki Rail Corp., has also been invited to the forum.
The first of the M-8 railcars arrived in Connecticut on Christmas Eve 2009, and have been undergoing so-called acceptance testing since then. In December, Council Chairman Jim Cameron lambasted Metro-North and the Connecticut DOT when Metro-North President Howard Permut and DOT Commissioner Jeffrey Parker announced that software problems would push off the long-discussed late 2010 debut date for the M-8 cars.
Back in 2009, the initial manufacture of the cars was delayed by when Kawasaki was unable to obtain enough of the contractually agreed upon steel to build them.
The first set of M-7 cars for Long Island Railroad, which are closely akin i to the M-8 equipment, underwent 20 months after their initial testing began to go into revenue service in October 2002.
That might lead one to suppose that getting any M-8 cars into service in February or March(13 or months after their arrival) would not be out-of line in order to ensure the equipment is safe and reliable.