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LIRR trains back running following lengthy repairs

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The Long Island Rail Road was back to normal service Monday morning, less than a week after a fire crippled the system and caused numerous delays for Queens and Long Island riders.

The agency completed repairs to the switching station near its Jamaica station Sunday night and trains were moving on time after six days of modified service for 10 out of 11 of its lines, LIRR President Helena Williams said.

“I appreciate the challenges our customers faced during the past week and I thank them for their patience during what has been a difficult time,” she said in a statement.

Crews worked around the clock to repair the damage from the fire, which may have been caused by torrential rains that hit the area, and involved work on 200 wires and 300 tests on the signal tower, according to LIRR officials. After the fire broke out Aug 23, the LIRR reduced the number of trains for all of its lines except the Port Washington branch.

About 60 percent of its afternoon rush service was operating at the time and the number of trains slowly increased each day as repairs were underway.

New upgrades to the system could prevent similar service outages in the near future, according to Williams.

In October, the LIRR will be spending $56 million to update the nearly 80-year-old signal switching system at the Jamaica switching tower. A new microprocessor computer will go online in November and control 155 switches instead of the mechanical devices currently in place at the tower, Williams said.

“These modernization projects will help ensure that we are moving toward the latest technology available to control train traffic [safely] and efficiently. In the event of a fire like the one that occurred last week, the new systems give us greater redundancy, better surge protection and improved diagnostic ability to isolate and fix problems,” she said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 6:01 pm, October 10, 2011
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