Shore Line East Riders Voice Frustrations Over Service

For Shore Line East riders, their daily commute has become a daily problem.

"A typical delay can be at least a half hour one way," said Susan Feaster, a member of Shore Line East Riders Advocacy Group.

From several canceled trains to constant delays, people taking the SLE say there's low reliability and rising frustration.

"A few of us, that I've been speaking to, are talking about driving to work again because you don't know if you're going to get home on time," said Nancy Hewitt. Hewitt says she's used the Shore Line East for seven years but that it's become a frustrating ride over the last few months.

"We have clearly heard from them over the course of the summer, and we're fully aware that this summer has been an absolutely unacceptable train ride," said Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner Jim Redeker.

On Thursday CTDOT and Amtrak held a forum inside New Haven Union Station. They spoke to riders, answered questions and listened to the issues they're dealing with. DOT says this summer Amtrak began a crucial maintenance program called "undercutting" that requires taking one track out of service. That means there's only one track in service for the SLE. Aging equipment compounded the problem.

"Something we expected, but maybe not as soon, is failure on these locomotives. These are pieces of equipment long overdue for overhaul, but they are in the overhaul program," said Redeker.

DOT says last week they saw the first of the re-manufactured locomotives and that over the next several months more will be replaced. As far as the track construction, that should wrap up by mid-November. To help reliability now, DOT says they've now staged buses at stations permanently as a backup, that Amtrak maintenance shifts have been increased, and that management is riding every train every day. To help communication, but the end of October, customers can sign up to receive customized alerts by text and email for their specific commute.

"I think part of the frustration is that we have not communicated adequately about what's happening so they can plan. Secondly, our backup systems for busing have not been adequate. We think addressing both of those will help a lot," said Redeker. "We think we'll be able to deliver a more reliable service based on this new attention."

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