NEW YORK—More than two dozen new passenger cars have been delivered to Metro-North Railroad’s New Haven Line, the first of 380 ordered. But even as they are being put into service, "The ability to keep going is a challenge every single day,” says the railroad's president.
With $2 billion in deferred maintenance in Connecticut, and bridges and a catenary power supply system more than 100 years old, Howard R. Permut says the line’s infrastructure is in “extremely fragile shape.”
Speaking Wednesday night, May 18, at the headquarters of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, Permut presented his assessment of the rail line’s condition to members of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council.
The council, which meets monthly, holds an annual meeting at the headquarters of the MTA, which is the parent corporation of Metro-North.
Permut noted, as well, that the New Haven Line is the busiest and most complicated commuter rail operation in the country.
He said the railroad expects to receive about 60 of its new M-8 passenger cars from Kawasaki Rail Car by the end of the year, with 38 built in Kobe, Japan, and the other 342 coming from the company’s factory in Lincoln, NE.
A train set of M-8 cars carried passengers for the first time on March 1, and since then two eight-car train sets of M8s have been in daily service.
Asked to evaluate how well the new cars have operated, Permut said, ”I think in general their , we’ve been very pleased with it.” He added that the M-8 is significantly more complicated than any other commuter car in the U.S.
Looking toward the future, Permut noted the M-8s can operate on the third-rail systems of Shore Line East, which runs between New Haven and New London, and the trackage into New York’s Pennsylvania Station.
Another problem in the new cars’ construction has been an incorrectly manufactured bracket used to attach equipment to the bottom of the cars. In the course of testing the cars, it was determined the brackets provided by one of Kawasaki’s suppliers had a weld that was too small to enable the part to last an anticipated 11 years.
Permut, along with Tim McCarthy, the railroad’s senior director of capital programs, explained that correct brackets would be retrofitted to cars already delivered at Kawasaki’s factory in Yonkers, NY.
McCarthy said the bracket problem has resulted in about a two-month delay in constructing cars, but was not a safety issue. He said the first car built in Nebraska is expected to arrive here in June.
Other topics covered during the meeting included when New Haven Line passengers will face a fare increase.
James P. Redeker, acting commissioner of the state’s Department of Transportation, said the recently approved state budget for 2011 to 2013 calls for a 1.25 percent increase in January, with the possibility of a sharper raise in fares.
During her term as governor, M. Jodi Rell decided New Haven Line fares would not be raised until the first of the M8 cars went into service.