Chesterton Tribune


South Shore delays after line damaged; train exceeded speed limit

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Service on the South Shore commuter line east of Hammond was disrupted for up to three hours during Wednesday’s evening rush hour, after overhead power conductors were damaged by a train apparently exceeding its speed limit.

According to a statement released today by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD), the cascading delays began when eastbound Train 209 was moving through a speed-restricted crossover to another track between East Chicago and Cline Ave.

“While an extensive investigation is underway with our Safety and Transportation departments, we know the train movement exceeded the 15 mph speed limit of the track turnout,” NICTD said. “The higher speed resulted in a rail carbody sway that caused the pantographs to damage the overhead conductors, disrupting train service east of Hammond for up to three hours.”

NICTD, meanwhile, is calling the fall season a “frustrating” one, with “several incidents interfering with train operations.”

On Oct. 14, for example, a high-voltage NIPSCO conductor adjacent to the South Shore right-of-way fell on the rail near the Dune Park Station, NICTD said. “This sent a high voltage impulse to two adjoining NICTD substations, causing considerable damage, train cancellations, and delays.”

Then, several days later, the Ogden Dunes substation suffered a “delayed damage outage” from the Oct. 14 incident which impacted the morning rush hour.

And the Furnessville substation east of Dune Park Station remains off line and under repair as crews wait for spare parts. “Until this substation is put back in service trains must operate at reduced speed between Michigan City and Ogden Dunes,” NICTD said. “These slower speeds can also affect rush-hour speeds.”

Other problems have included problems in switching cars in the Michigan City yard and broken rail and damaged signal wire in Michigan City; a vehicle which a motorist managed to get stuck on the line east of Gary; and the month-long construction project to relocate the railroad onto the new bridge over Torrence Ave.

“Overall, October rush-hour performance dropped to 76 percent and to date in November rush-hour performance is 72 percent,” NICTD said. “Certainly far below the 93 percent we experienced in September and standard of 100 percent we strive for on a daily basis.”

“Many passengers have asked us why we can’t provide shuttle bus service when service is disrupted,” NICTD said. “We carry over 4,000 passengers in a span of two hours in the evening rush hour. Bus transit resources are limited in Northwest Indiana for a passenger load of this size. Furthermore, it has been our experience that it takes several hours to muster resources from the private bus operators on short notice. The logistics involved in securing buses, directing them to correct stations, and providing on site station coordination and communication cannot be accomplished in the span of a two- to three-hour delay involving 60 percent of our passengers.”

The South Shore is the longest commuter railroad serving Chicago and the only railroad with over 60 percent of its route served by single track, NICTD noted. “A railroad with 90 route miles faces daily challenges to maintain on-time performance but we promise to work and improve every operational element we control.”





Posted 11/15/2012