Outbound New York commuters in the evening rush were seriously affected by problems on successive days. First, on Thursday, January 23, Metro-North’s entire system ground to a halt for about 2 hours, starting at 7:45 p.m., according to reporting by Matt Flegenheimer and Emma G. Fitzsimmons in The New York Times (Jan. 24). The railroad’s computerized traffic control system failed after technicians attempted to replace a power supply, an operation that the railroad’s president later said was ill-advised and normally conducted only when traffic is sparse. All trains were advised by radio to proceed only to the next station, and some were unable even to get that far: one train was stranded on the railroad’s Harlem River bridge, unable to proceed; the passengers were unable to leave the crowded train.
Then, on Friday, January 24, a smoke condition and apparently a disabled train in the East River tunnels (which connect Penn Station with the Long Island Rail Road and are Amtrak’s route to New England and the Sunnyside yard in Queens used by Amtrak, the LIRR, and NJ Transit) led to a cascading series of delays. The LIRR, the heaviest user of the tunnels, managed to escape with only a few trains cancelled and modest delays reported to be only 10 minutes. In contrast, NJ Transit was the worst affected, reporting major delays generally of 45 to 60 minutes, starting at about 6 p.m. and not clearing up until about 9:30. One train to Trenton was reported as being up to 2 hours behind schedule; an opening of the Portal drawbridge in the Jersey Meadows may also have contributed to the snafu. The LIRR was likely spared the worst of the delays because there are 4 tracks in the East River tunnels; NJ Transit on the other hand, must squeeze all its trains into the 2 tracks under the Hudson River. At peak times, the Hudson tubes operate at full capacity, so even a minor delay can affect many trains and requires hours to get back to normal.
Read about the Metro-North problems at