Long Island Rail Road officials said they expected a normal commute Tuesday morning after crews repaired most of the damage from a collision between a work train and a passenger train near New Hyde Park that derailed both and injured 33 people.
LIRR spokesman Aaron Donovan said it was possible but “highly unlikely” that speed restrictions would remain in place through the derailment site Tuesday morning if crews could not fully complete the repairs overnight.
The LIRR conducted the “expedited repairs” Monday afternoon to allow for full service during the afternoon rush, but planned to complete the fixes after the evening commute.
“We’re looking at the high likelihood of a full, normal commute for Tuesday morning,” Donovan said.
About 3 p.m. Monday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office announced that the LIRR would restore full service in time for the evening commute, following a “nonstop” recovery effort since the derailment.
“The full restoration of service for Monday’s evening rush hour was made possible by the continuous efforts of the MTA and LIRR crews,” Cuomo said. “I thank all of the employees who worked around the clock to restore train service so commuters can get where they need to go as easily and as efficiently as possible.”
Despite the repairs, the evening commute was far from normal because of a switch problem in Mineola — later resolved — that caused extensive delays and cancellations.
Meanwhile, Federal Railroad Administration officials remained on the scene Monday investigating what caused the accident, which occurred about 9:10 p.m. Saturday about a half-mile east of the New Hyde Park station.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials said a one-car work train performing scheduled maintenance on the north track improperly moved onto the southbound track just as a 12-car, Huntington-bound passenger train approached. The two trains sideswiped each other, causing extensive damage to the passenger train’s first three cars, which all derailed.
Using a large crane, workers put the cars back on the tracks, and towed them away Monday morning. From there, dozens of LIRR workers used shovels, sledgehammers, power tools and construction equipment to put hundreds of feet of damaged track back together.
Much of their efforts focused on “an intricate and cumbersome 25-foot segment” of damaged track near a switch. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who was briefed by FRA officials, said Sunday that the accident appears to have been caused by LIRR workers errantly leaving a track switch in the wrong position. An FRA spokesman declined to provide an update on the investigation Monday.
By Monday morning, the LIRR had cleared one of the two tracks, allowing for limited service through the derailment site during the morning rush. There were several reported delays and cancellations, but ridership was light because of the Columbus Day holiday.
Bob Sixsmith, 73, of Garden City, who lives near the accident site, took a train from the Merillon Avenue station into Penn Station and back Monday and gave the railroad an “A+” grade for its service.
But Sixsmith criticized the agency for not providing enough reliable information to customers. He said he asked a woman at the information desk at Penn Station Monday afternoon if both tracks were back in service and was told, “I don’t know the answer to that because they don’t tell us.”
“The communication from corporate is terrible,” Sixsmith said. “But they did a wonderful job today getting everything going.”
The LIRR Commuter Council also expressed its gratitude Monday to railroad workers “who worked tirelessly” to restore service. However, its chairman Mark Epstein, said the numerous collisions involving LIRR trains in recent years “trouble the Council and our fellow riders.” There have been at least four incidents involving LIRR trains hitting each other since 2008.
“Ensuring safety is the top priority of the Rail Road, and we urge the LIRR to do all that is possible to further the investigation of this incident and make its results available,” Epstein said in a statement.