Commuters, expect train delays

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

There is trouble on the tracks because of a phenomenon that happens every year around this time.

Too much rain and too many fallen leaves on the tracks are making things especially bad this year and forcing train cars to be pulled.

Officials say about 32 percent of Metro North's fleet is out of service.

Nearly a quarter of all LIRR trains are out, officials say.

Eyewitness News reporter Emily Smith has the story from the Jamaica train station.

The issue is pretty simple. There are wheels on trains, and a record number those wheels are flat right now from wear and tear and friction.

It's all due to weather, and right now it's expected to affect anyone and everyone who takes a train.

If you've taken a train lately, it's likely you've experienced what is called a flat spot, or flat wheels.

"It smells like smoke," one commuter said. "And people thought it was on fire. The train was bouncing around like it had no shocks."

That's the so-called "flat wheel" experience.

There are about 240 cars being repaired for it. Officials say the process takes a whole day to repair about two cars.

"What it does is, over time, it'll have an impact on the equipment," the LIRR's Pat Sheeran said.

Officials say the problem, which happens every year like clockwork, occurs when wet leaves cover the tracks.

They say the train wheels then spin, forces the engineer to slam on the brakes, which then causes metal-to-metal friction.

"It's quite remarkable how the leaves affect the train," Sheeran said. "But it's been historic."

This year, officials say, it's the worst it's possibly ever been, due to an excess of rain and leaves.

Commuters need to be aware that there will be some changes, most notably overcrowded trains due to a lack of cars.

"The trains are usually pretty crowded, and often there is only standing room left," a commuter said. "However, I have no doubt that we'll be able to make it through it."

Unfortunately, officials say passengers can also expect some last minute cancellations. But since trains usually run every half hour, commuters shouldn't have a problem getting on a train, only arriving on time.

LIRR officials say they have crews working 24-7, even on Thanksgiving, to try to get the problems solved.

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