LIRR confirms near-crash, makes changes

September 29, 2009 3:01:59 PM PDT
The Long Island Rail Road has increased its supervision along some trains after a frightening near-collision. Two trains heading right towards each other came close to crashing. The engineers were able to stop the trains just in time. It happened on the Montauk branch, near Bridgehampton.

A lot of people ride the rails in the Hamptons, but for regular commuters, the news is astonishing.

"That's putting people lives at risk," one rider said.

The LIRR confirms the incident, which happened two months ago. In the area where it occurred, only one track handles trains heading east and west. Trains are supposed to pull into designated areas called passing sidings to let oncoming traffic pass.

But that didn't happen the morning of August 1, when the LIRR says a "miscommunication" left two trains on a collision course.

The incident, a spokesman said, involved a breach of LIRR operating rules. The LIRR immediately initiated an investigation. As a result, six employees found responsible have been disciplined, new protocols designed to improve communications are in place and oversight has been increased.

But Southampton Town spokesman Ryan Horn says it's a symptom of a much bigger problem - an antiquated Montauk branch, which represents just one percent of the LIRR's overall ridership.

If no one rides, he says, the MTA is loath to invest any cash. And with no investment, no one else will ride.

""Until you find a way to increase the number of passing sidings or have some automated signalization, it is something you're going to have to be concerned about for quite a while," he said.

"My life is at stake, a lot of others lives are at stake," commuter Donna Smith said. "So now I'm going to be scared."

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King

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