Feb. 08--Amid talk at the Capitol of perhaps replacing Metro-North, the railroad's new president and the chief of its parent agency will travel to Hartford to meet with lawmakers later this month.
Criticism of Metro-North's senior management has been steadily rising among lawmakers after a long string of service meltdowns compounded by two disastrous derailments, alarming blunders and reports of workers' fraud.
"We've had it," state Rep. Tony Guerrera, co-chair of the General Assembly's transportation committee, said at an uncommonly bipartisan press conference Monday. "We're fed up."
On Friday, the committee scheduled an informational hearing for Feb. 27, when legislators will get to meet with the top executive of the railroad and his boss. Joseph Giulietti, who was hired from Florida to replace Howard Permut as Metro-North president this month, is scheduled to appear along with Thomas Prendergast, chairman of Metro-North's parent agency, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
"I'm happy to see that the president is making an effort to come in front of the committee and tell us his game plan," Guerrera said Friday. "We want to hear the goals and objectives, and when they'll be met. And we'll want to have some monthly meetings with him with regard to how well they're being met."
Connecticut pays Metro-North about $70 million a year to operate its commuter rail system, including the New Haven line that links Fairfield County with Manhattan. That state has a 60-year contract with Metro-North, and the idea of firing the company has never been seriously discussed at the Capitol before. Recent calamities and blunders have been so severe and relentless, though, that many lawmakers are openly questioning whether Connecticut should seek to cancel the contract and hire a new operator.
Guerrera is less eager to challenge the contract, but insists that Metro-North make across-the-board improvements in safety, performance and transparency.
James Cameron, long-time Metro-North watchdog and founder of the new Commuter Action Group, has been blunt in recent criticism of the railroad.
"I've been riding Metro-North for almost 25 years and I've never seen the railroad in such bad shape. Trains are consistently late without explanation. Some cars have no heat ... on a recent evening, the entire railroad ground to a halt because some tech pulled the plug on a vital computer at HQ," Cameron wrote this week. "Our crumbling rail infrastructure is compounded by inexcusable human errors by the people hired to run our trains."
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