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Human error caused Metro-North shutdown

NEW YORK – The two-hour shutdown of the entire Metro-North Railroad system Thursday evening was the result of human error during an electrical repair project, MTA officials said Friday.

The computers that run the railroad’s signal system lost power at 7:45 p.m. when one of two main power supply units was taken out of service for replacement. Officials said technicians performing the work did not realize that a wire was disconnected on the other main power supply unit. That destabilized the power supply system for over an hour until a backup supply could be connected.

“Metro-North customers deserve better,” MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast said Friday while extending an apology, and he noted this was but the latest problem plaguing the railroad in recent months.

“For what the best in-class railroad in the western hemisphere acknowledged with awards, they have had a very troubled history in the past 12 months,” Pendergast said.  “That is not lost on me personally or the agency and we need to get it corrected and corrected soon.  That is a commitment I have made and I will make it for both New York and Connecticut and all of the constituents, the elected folks and our customers.”

Prendergast said he has directed Metro-North to bring in an independent consultant to examine how and why these mistakes were made, and to recommend any necessary changes to operating procedures to ensure nothing like this happens again.”

Over 50 trains were forced to halt for safety reasons when the signal system went dark. Rail traffic controllers instructed engineers to slowly bring their trains to the closest station. Trains were not permitted to proceed through switches until signal maintainers could respond and manually ensure the switches were lined up correctly, which delayed some trains even further.

All trains had light, heat and power during the disruption and railroad officials said no customers were in danger.

Trains began moving again by 9:30 p.m. with full control over the signal system re-established by 10:30 p.m.  Significant delays continued throughout the evening hours, but service was back to normal for the Friday morning commute.