Metra trying to get back on track; Rail agency saw major delays cancelations in wake of snow, freezing temperatures
January 9, 2014 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- For the fourth straight day there are delays and cancellations for Metra trains leaving commuters angry and frustrated with the rail service during the deep freeze.
The problems are, Metra says, because of switches that have been packed with ice and snow, and then when the temperatures fell, they became frozen. The warmer weather is helping things, along with automatic heating switches.
Despite these activities, Metra is still reporting delays Thursday afternoon.
After days of delays and cancellations, weary Metra commuters are hoping for a problem free rush hour.
"We gotten used to it over the last month or so. (Wednesday) night was 75 minutes. A couple of weeks ago it was long, but it beats driving," said commuter Scott Schwankl.
Metra maintenance crews spent another day cleaning ice and snow from manual rail switches.
The rail service blamed their problems with the agency's more than 3,000 switches on the winter weather.
"We understand our passengers frustration, we do. But we are working our hardest get through this," said Metra spokesperson Meg Reile.
Officials say frigid temperatures even made it hard for heated automatic switches to thaw the ice and snow that became embedded.
The BNSF and Union Pacific lines took the brunt of weather-related delays all week.
"When trains move over top, the tracks, it drops ice, and chunks of ice and snow from underneath the trains into the points and even the heaters can't melt that kind of accumulation," said Larry Powell, Metra sr. maintenance director.
Since Monday evening, dozens of trains were scratched, leaving scores of commuters stranded on outdoor platforms for up to an hour in dangerous wind chills.
Thursday morning at least six trains were cancelled as commuters experienced a fourth straight day of delays.
"Driving is just too much for me. It would take me two hours with traffic in the morning. Metra's only 45 minutes," said commuter Kaitlin Bandung.
As crews continue to clean up the switches and the automatic continue to be heated, delays will begin to cease.
There were no cancelations Thursday.
chicago news, evelyn holmes
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