Chesterton Tribune

Heat causing delays on the South Shore

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If your South Shore commuter train has been late the last couple of days, during the afternoon rush hour, blame the heat.

John Parsons, spokesman for the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, told the Chesterton Tribune today that the extreme temperatures have forced South Shore conductors to slow train speeds.

“It’s really precautionary in nature,” Parsons said.

In fact the heat has two effects on the commuter line’s infrastructure. The overhead, or concatenary, wire between Michigan City and South Bend—which has not yet been upgraded—“gets very soft and loose when it gets warm,” Parsons noted. “The heat can also cause problems to rail and switches, potentially misaligning them.”

“So we operate at lowered speed to reduce the likelihood of problems,” Parsons said.

How much of a lowered speed? A pretty substantial one. “In 79 mile-per-hour territory, we’re dropping to 50 mph,” he said.

Parsons added that the threshold temperature at which speeds are lowered is anything above an ambient 95 degrees. That means that morning rush-hour trains aren’t generally under a low-speed order. It’s only in the early- to mid-afternoon, when the day has really started hotting up, that the order takes effect.

Low speeds, however, have two results: the obvious one that your train takes longer to get from Point A to Point B; and a less than obvious one, namely, that any delay to a scheduled meeting between an eastbound train and a westbound one in single-track territory—where one of them is shunted to a siding so that the other may pass—tends to have cascading effects up and down the line.

And those cascading effects have been doing a number on the afternoon rush-hour, delaying trains usually on the order of 20 to 30 minutes, Parsons said.


Posted 7/18/2012