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Maryland Transit Authority apologizes to W.Va. riders for service during June

July 24, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

BALTIMORE - The head of the Maryland Transit Administration apologized Wednesday for MARC service that he said only was on schedule 63 percent of the time in June for riders that board the commuter train in West Virginia.

"Although some service disruptions are unavoidable, there were instances where we could have taken actions to reduce the anxiety, frustration and inconvenience that you and your family, friends and colleagues experienced," MTA administrator Paul J. Wiedefeld said in a press release.

Along with summer heat-causing stress on rails and equipment, Wiedefield noted service along the Brunswick line was canceled last month when a severe storm cut power to track signals and blew down trees. The line includes stops at Harpers Ferry and Duffields in Jefferson County and Martinsburg in Berkeley County.

The agency's fleet of diesel locomotives was nearly 40 years old and has been increasingly unreliable despite a major overhaul 10 years ago, and reliability problems have persisted with MTA's newest electric locomotives, Wiedefeld said.

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"We are taking immediate corrective steps to regain your confidence in us," Wiedefield said. "I have directed MARC operations to review and analyze each recent incident with Amtrak and CSX Transportation, and implement measures to reduce this risk of reoccurrence in the future."

Wiedefield said CSX dispatchers recently relocated from Jacksonville, Fla., to Baltimore, a move that he said should greatly improve communication and service reliability. CSX largely controls the rail lines used for the Brunswick route.

MTA announced in April 2008 that it awarded a contract for the purchase of 26 diesel locomotives, and Wiedefield said they would arrive in Maryland at a rate of two per month beginning in early 2009.

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