Service Along Metro-North’s New Haven Line Is Severely Limited Following Primary And Backup Power Line Failure—Full Power Will Not Be Available For Several More Weeks Schumer, Blumenthal Call For Immediate Investigation Into Electric Utility Controlling Power Line – Senators Ask How Both Primary And Backup Power Could Fail, And Whether Other Locations And Railroads, Such As Lirr Are Vulnerable Senators Ask For Technical Assistance To Restore Power Between Stamford & Grand Central; Will Call Fo
(Hartford, CT) – U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Richard Blumenthal today called on the Department of Energy and the New York State Public Service Commission to immediately investigate the recent power failure along the Metro-North Railroad’s New Haven line. This past Wednesday, a Con Edison feeder line providing power to the railroad line inadvertently failed, shutting down service between Stamford, Connecticut and Grand Central Station. Although a backup feeder line exists, it too is offline and will not be available for several more weeks. In the meantime, 125,000 daily commuters are affected by the limited service. Schumer and Blumenthal are asking the federal and state agencies to investigate what went wrong and if adequate contingency plans are in place to prevent a reoccurrence, and if other rail lines, such as Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road, are also susceptible to the same failures. They also asked that technical assistance should be provided so that the power is back up and running as soon as possible.
“There is a backup power system for a reason, and we need to know why that backup system failed, throwing a wrench into the commute of tens of thousands,” said Schumer. “The Department of Energy needs to join up with the investigators at the Public Service Commission and utilize their expertise to figure out what exactly went wrong and why, and how it can be fixed. And they need to do it not just for Metro North, but for all of our regional railroads, including Long Island Railroad. We can’t have our entire transportation system ground to a halt because we have a failure in both a primary and backup power systems. There must be mandatory contingency plans approved by the government in place for these events.”
“This service disruption is unacceptable, and immediate steps must be taken to ensure that all available resources have been dedicated to restoring rail service for the 125,000 commuters—and our regional economy-- who rely on Metro-North each day. The federal Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability and the New York Public Service Commission must investigate to determine the cause of this inexcusable cable failure, and why appropriate contingency plans and back-up systems were not in place. Con Ed must be forced to prove that going forward they have adequate systems in place to prevent additional failures. To grow jobs and strengthen our economy, safe and reliable rail service must be a top priority, and it is simply intolerable for a single cable failure to imperil that progress. More frequent and thorough audits and assessments are needed to ensure all critical infrastructure, including power cables, are in good working condition, and that robust contingency plans are in place to immediately restore service should a disruption occur,” said Blumenthal.
This past Wednesday, an electrical cable powering the Metro-North’s New Haven line failed when it inadvertently failed during work being performed by the utility provider, Con Edison. The feeder cable was in Mount Vernon, NY and failed around 5:20am. At the time, the backup line was also offline due to maintenance. The service disrupted over 125,000 daily commuters.
The utility has said that it may be weeks until full power is restored along the rail line. Service is not only disrupting the New Haven line but it is also affecting other rail lines throughout the Northeast. Amtrak’s Acela Express Service between New York and Boston has been suspended as well.
The Metro-North New Haven line is part of the Northeast Corridor (NEC). According to Amtrak, the NEC is the busiest railroad in North America, with more than 2,200 trains operation over some portion of the Washington-Boston route each day. Approximately 260 million intercity and community rail passengers rely on the NEC each year.
Schumer and Blumenthal today outlined their concerns about the recent Metro-North incident to the New York State Public Service Commission and the Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability. The DoE through their Assistance to States program can provide technical assistance to Public Service Commissions to improve policy and electric delivery. Schumer and Blumenthal said that the feds should come to New York and work with the PSC, Con Ed, and the MTA to investigate and improve the policies regarding back-up power supplies for commuter railroads.
Schumer and Blumenthal are calling for an official investigation to clearly identify what went wrong this past Wednesday and how a similar event can be prevented in the future. Specifically, Schumer and Blumenthal pointed to the Long Island Railroad, which is jointly serviced by Con Edison and the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA). Schumer and Blumenthal made the case that there are electrified portions along the LIRR and service could be equally vulnerable to a similar occurrence if proper precautions are not put in place.
In their letter, Schumer and Blumenthal asked:
Schumer and Blumenthal also asked for immediate technical assistance so that power along the Metro-North New Haven line can be restored.
A copy of their letter is below:
The Honorable Kathleen H. Burgess The Honorable Patricia A. Hoffman
The Secretary to the New York State Assistant Secretary for the Office of
Public Service Commission Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability
Empire State Plaza United States Department of Energy
Agency Building 3 1000 Independence Avenue, SW
Albany, New York 12223 Washington, DC 20585
Dear Secretary Burgess and Assistant Secretary Hoffman:
We are outraged and dismayed by the current service disruption along Metro-North’s New Haven commuter rail line. As you know, earlier this week an electrical disruption forced the commuter rail to suspend service between Stamford, Connecticut and Grand Central Station in New York City. This service disrupted over 125,000 daily commuters who depend on Metro-North to get to their jobs, medical appointments, and schools. According to reports, a feeder line providing power to the New Haven line track inadvertently failed during work being performed by the utility provider, Con Edison. While a backup feeder line exists, it is currently off-line and not available for several more weeks. Therefore, we are calling for your agencies to expeditiously provide whatever technical assistance possible to get the power back sooner than is currently predicted and jointly perform an immediate investigation into this failure.
The utility is now saying it could be “weeks” before full power is restored to the rail line. This is unacceptable and should not be tolerated. The tens of thousands of daily commuters rightly expect that major utilities and their railroad partners have a robust and full back-up power contingency plan in the case of an emergency, regardless if the main source of back-up power is undergoing maintenance. Yet, according to information provided to our offices, Con Edison had to take the back-up power source off-line in order to accommodate Metro-North construction work on the New Haven line and ultimately failed to predict the level of disruption caused to riders.
While we still do not know exactly what caused the main feeder line to fail or why it would take so long to repair, we are asking your respective offices to provide expertise to restore power as quickly as possible. Moreover, we are asking your offices to open an official investigation to clearly identify what went wrong and how it can be prevented in the future for all of New York and Connecticut’s commuter railroads. For example, the Long Island Rail Road, which is jointly serviced by Con Edison and the Long Island Power Authority along the electrified portions of their system, could be equally vulnerable to such an event if the proper precautions and oversight are not in place. Therefore, it is critical that your investigation address the following questions and issue recommendations for improvements:
The New Haven line—and the Northeast Corridor (NEC) as a whole—is critical to the nation’s economy. According to Amtrak, the NEC is the busiest railroad in North America, with more than 2,200 trains operating over some portion of the Washington-Boston route each day. Approximately 260 million intercity and commuter rail passengers rely on the NEC each year. If there are federal laws or regulations that need to be strengthened to prevent this from happening, we welcome the investigation’s recommendations.
The impact of this service loss cannot be overstated. As federal and state officials with expertise and investigatory authorities, we urge you to act.
Senator Charles E. Schumer
Senator Richard Blumenthal