With an increasing number of angry rail commuters, and calls by some state legislators for federal intervention, Governor Dannel Malloy opened the door on Monday to the possibility of putting the operation of Metro-North’s New Haven line out for bid.
Speaking on WNPR’s Where We Live, the governor called the railroad’s recent performance “abysmal,” and said they’re not the only game in town.
"Amtrak is a player," Malloy said. "For instance, they actually provide the service on Shoreline East. Boston just went out and got bids for the operation of their system, and came up with a different bidder than they one they had been using, a different purveyor. It is complicated, because so many of these trains cross into New York. We’ll look at all of our options."
Jim Cameron of the Commuter Action Group, a longtime advocate of rail commuters, said he’s encouraged by the governor’s comments on Metro-North. "We’re not dealing with a monopoly," Cameron said. "This is not the phone company. It’s a railroad, and that railroad can be run by other operating agencies."
Cameron said he’s not sure that replacing Metro-North would be the right choice, but that it's time for the railroad to understand that there are alternatives.
Governor Malloy said a decision on the new New Haven-Springfield line will be made soon, and the state is inclined to put that contract out to bid.
Below is a transcript of Gov. Dannel Malloy's comments on Where We Live.
Gov. Dannel Malloy: They just had a disastrous year. I will be sitting down in the coming days with the new president, who's been brought in from Florida, where by all reports, he's done an outstanding job turning around some operations down there. He has Connecticut roots, which I feel good about, so I look forward to a better performance on Metro-North's part. But you couldn't have had a worse year.
John Dankosky: How can you -- aside from sitting down with them -- how can you pressure them, given the fact that they're the only game in town, to do better, to just make sure they're more on time; that they're safer; that people can feel more confident in this being the best rail system, given that it's the most crowded rail system in the entire country?
Well, they're not the only game in town. Amtrak is a player and for instance they actually provide the service on Shoreline East for instance. Boston just went out and got bids for the operation of their system and came up with a different bidder than the one they had been using, or a different purveyor. It is complicated because so many of these trains cross into New York, but we'll look at of our options including all the pressure points that we can apply and quite frankly, there's always resort to court but I don't want to get to that. I'd rather see them do the things that they need to do and get those things done.
You know, we're in the midst of a major energy overhaul on our portion of the line down in Greenwich, and things are going smoothly. But that's because we did the right planning. In fact we had triple redundancies set up before we started to mess around with how we were feeding electricity into the catenary system. So that's the kind of thing that Metro-North is going to have to move to. And I've actually called for them, on any project, to have it independently reviewed because quite frankly they're not getting it.
So you'd consider putting this out to bid, as others have done?
Yeah, we're going to have to make that decision with respect to the New Haven-Springfield line relatively shortly. And I think we're more inclined to put it out to bid. Not to give it to Amtrak automatically. Not to give it Metro-North automatically, but to go out to the marketplace and say, who wants to operate this line and what are you going to do to prove that this is going to be run well?