Metro-North Control Switch Repairs Could Take 18 Months

Commuters can expect delays that could last up to 18 months when a permanent repair is made to the switching control center destroyed in a weekend fire.

Metro-North rrepairs at the scritch control station destroyed by fire May 10, 2014. MTA photo.
Metro-North rrepairs at the scritch control station destroyed by fire May 10, 2014. MTA photo.

In an announcement released late Monday, it appears that Metro-North Railroad commuters should expect continued delays until further notice as the railroad works to develop a plan to replace the switching controls that were destroyed in a weekend fire.

The cause of the fire in a building near the Cos Cob station remains under investigation. In the meantime, rail officials say it could be up to 18 months before a permanent repair is made. In the meantime, commuters should expect 5- to 10-minute delays in the area because the destroyed switching controls affect the railroad's ability to use all four tracks during peak service periods.

In the meantime, the railroad was dealing with delays caused Monday night by trees across rail lines.

According to the railroad, "Westbound trains are not stopping at Old Greenwich, Riverside and Cos Cob.  Customers wishing to access those stations from Stamford should take the train to Greenwich and board an Eastbound train to your destination. Customers at Old Greenwich, Riverside and Cos Cob wishing to go Westbound should take the Eastbound train to Stamford and board a Westbound train to your destination. This is due to trees blocking the tracks."

Here is the railroad's statement regarding the switch control repairs that was emailed to the media at 8:37 p.m. May 12 but timestamped as being posted on Facebook at 3:52 p.m. May 12. 

New Haven Line customers should continue to expect 5-10 minute delays until further notice due to a fire that destroyed a critical piece of equipment that controls switches and signals near Cos Cob on Saturday, May 10. 

When fully operational, the control house at Cos Cob allows trains to switch between all four tracks in the area. During peak periods, trains normally use three of the New HavenLine’s four tracks to travel in the peak direction. Limiting peak-direction trains to two of the four tracks in the nine-mile stretch between Stamford, and Port Chester, NY as a result of the fire creates a bottleneck that causes congestion-related delays through that area.

The fire has also eliminated the ability of the railroad to operate trains around problems should they arise in this area. Rescue locomotives will be on standby to assist should any train become disabled. 

As a result, Metro-North developed the following course of action to replace the damaged control house:

Metro-North employees immediately responded to this location and made temporary repairs.  Although the repairs allow for trains to operate safely through this area, they do not provide full functionality. Trains operate at normal speed but on a limited number of fixed track routes.

Immediate Plan

The highly complex process to restore limited switching capability at Cos Cob is ongoing and a locally-controlled manual panel will be installed in the damaged control house over the next several weeks.

This temporary panel will require a signal maintainer to be stationed at the site at all times to work with a rail traffic controller during the rush periods to manually change the direction of trains and switch trains from one track to another to get around problems if any arise in this area. The switching work is normally performed through the railroad’s Operations Control Center in NYC.

Long Term Replacement Plan

This plan consists of a two-step process: temporary and then permanent replacement of the control house.  Plans are underway to replace the local

manual panel with an automated version over the next several months that will then operate while the design and procurement for a new switching control house is underway.

This new house is part of the signal system replacement project taking place on the New Haven Line. It is expected to take 18 months or more to finalize design, procure, construct and test the new control house and make it fully operational.  The Connecticut Department of Transportation is funding the portion of the work taking place in Connecticut and Metro-North is managing the project along the New Haven Line.

Please note: Metro-North’s Train Time App, website information, and station LCD monitors rely on the signal system to track the status of trains and provide train information.  Due to the damage to the control house that affects the signal system between Stamford and Port Chester, there will be inaccurate reporting on the status of trains while going through this section of the New Haven Line.  Once trains have cleared the section, their current status will be updated to provide real-time train information. 

We will continue to keep you updated about our progress in resolving this issue and regret any inconvenience you may experience as a result of this incident. 



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