LIRR unveils 'performance improvement plan' after worst on-time month in more than 20 years

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Sandra Bookman has more on the LIRR's plan to improve service.

The LIRR on Tuesday unveiled a "performance improvement plan" to prevent seasonal delays that resulted in the worst month for on-time performance in more than two decades.

LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski said January service for customers was "not what they expect, not what they deserve and certainly not what we tried to put out there for them."

Nowakowski showed photos of some of bigger causes of delays, including broken rails caused by cold and slippery rails caused by leaf residue on the tracks. He said the railroad needs to a do a better job of rail cleaning to keep leaves off the tracks, as well as having a better recovery when wheels are knocked off the tracks. In one day in December, 150 cars were knocked out of service.

"Obviously, you can't operate like that," Nowakowski said. "You need to do more to recover when you have those instances."

Extreme cold during the winter also causes broken rails and freezes switches, and the LIRR is installing more third rail heaters, proposing buying more deicing machines and considering rail switch covers to keep switches warm.

Nowakowski said the railroad needs to conduct more rail flaw inspections and more rail grinding, which takes defects out of the rails, and he said they need more equipment. At one point, one of the railroad's most valuable snow plows called "Darth Vader" was unavailable because it had been hit by a car.

"You cant have that happen," he said, adding the repairs cannot wait. "We need to do these things now."

The LIRR will also convert station signage to countdown clock type technology after five stations had the clocks on a trial basis for the past year. Additionally, the automated announcements at stations will be decreased in favor of human involvement.

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