Metro-North Railroad’s power outage this past Thursday was caused by technicians who wrongly pulled the plug, officials said Friday. The technicians unplugged a unit that supplied power to computers controlling train signals remotely from Grand Central Terminal so they could replace the equipment. But they didn’t check to ensure that a second power supply unit was fully connected to keep the computers running, officials said.
Originally thought to be a signal glitch, the error left commuters stranded at stations and stuck on trains for two hours before service was restored. Three of the five lines on the railroad system, as well as Amtrak service were affected. A railroad spokesman couldn’t say how many trains were stuck on the lines, or how many passengers were affected. The trains that were stuck on the railways retained electricity power and heat, but some complained of the doors opening and closing while the train was stalled.
“Last night’s failure was unacceptable, pure and simple,” MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast said. “The project should have been analyzed for risks and redundancy before it began, and it should not have been performed when thousands of customers were trying to get home in cold weather.”
After the problem began at 7:45pm, commuters overflowed the the main hall of Grand Central Station before power was restored around 9:30pm. Metro-North is the nation’s second-busiest railroad and serves 281,000 riders a day in New York and Connecticut.
“Metro-North customers deserve better, and I extend my sincere apology to all of them,” Prendergast said. “I have directed Metro-North to bring in an independent consultant to examine how and why these mistakes were made, and to recommend any necessary changes to operating procedures to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.”