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NY-Connecticut commuter line sees half capacity Monday

By Noreen O'Donnell

(Reuters) - The Metro-North Railroad expects its New Haven line to return to half capacity by Monday after a power failure last week caused delays for tens of thousands of commuters into New York City, but it will take until October 8 to restore full commuter train service, officials said on Sunday.

Customers still are being urged to avoid traveling during the busiest part of rush hour because capacity is "still far less than the normal service our customers expect," Metro-North said in a statement. "Customers should expect crowded trains and longer travel times," the railroad added.

Some 125,000 commuters a day, including many on Wall Street, have faced long delays as crews struggle to restore full service. The railroad runs through hedge-fund capital Greenwich, Connecticut and nearby Stamford, where such banks as UBS AG and the Royal Bank of Scotland maintain trading floors.

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy on Sunday again urged commuters to work from home, saying that although he welcomed efforts by Metro-North and the Consolidated Edison power company, service would be limited and trains crowded.

"I have been making it clear to Con Ed and the MTA that a delay like the one they initially proposed was completely unacceptable," he said. "I want to reemphasize that they need to alleviate this problem as quickly as possible."

Meanwhile, two U.S. senators called on Sunday for federal and state investigations into the power failure.

Senators Charles Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, both Democrats, have written to the U.S. Department of Energy and the New York State Public Service Commission asking that they help restore power and examine what went wrong.

The outage on the railroad's busy route between New Haven, Connecticut, and New York City began on Wednesday morning when a high-powered electric cable failed near Harrison, New York, a town about 22 miles north of Manhattan. The outage occurred while crews were working to replace an alternate power line.

"To grow jobs and strengthen our economy, safe and reliable rail service must be a top priority, and it is simply intolerable for a single cable failure to imperil that progress," Blumenthal said in a statement.

Consolidated Edison Inc. crews have been looking for ways to power the rail line while repairs are made. On Sunday afternoon, crews were testing temporary feeders and transformers intended to take power off the distribution system to power the tracks, said utility spokesman Allan Drury.

The power outage is the second major disruption this year to service on the railroad's New Haven line. In May, two passenger trains collided after one derailed near Bridgeport, Connecticut, injuring dozens of people and disrupting service for days.

(Reporting by Noreen O'Donnell; Editing by David Gregorio)

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