LIRR president owns up to winter service shortcomings

After falling off the tracks in January with the worst on-time performance in more than two decades, the MTA's Long Island Rail Road outlined a "performance improvement plan" that it hopes will improve the performance and service of the railroad.

"Obviously the service that we provided to our customers is not what they expect, it's not what they deserve and it's certainly not what we try to put out there for them," LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski said at a board meeting on Tuesday at MTA headquarters.

The railroad's overall on-time performance for January was at 83.9 percent, the lowest since January 1996.

Nowakowski blamed many of January's train delays and cancellations on slippery and broken rails caused by the bitter cold weather. He said the railroad needs to do a better job cleaning rails and maintaining traction.

In December, 150 cars were taken out of service due to slippery rails. The LIRR plans to install more third-rail heaters and invest in more deicing equipment and new technology.

Nowakowski said the railroad also needs to improve rapid recovery during extreme weather.

"We need rescue engines that more quickly can get to the location quickly where a critical failure occurs and hook up to the train and get it out of the way," he said, "so we don't wind up with 20 or 30 trains delayed because one train had a mechanical problem."

Nowakowski also spoke about improving communication with passengers by putting out real-time information on social media, adding platform countdown clocks, as well as using more platform and onboard announcements.