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South Shore Line reports 'challenging rollout' of new Double Track schedule

Michael Gallenberger
Lakeshore Public Media

The South Shore Line's Double Track service had a challenging rollout last week, according to Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) President Mike Noland.

"Tuesday wasn’t great. Wednesday was not much better. Thursday, we started to see some improvement. Friday was O.K.," Noland told the NICTD board Monday.

The new schedule adds 14 trains each weekday and reduces travel times. But delays of up to an hour were reported during the first two days of service.

Noland said it's been an adjustment for passengers, as well as railroad employees. Some riders were waiting on the wrong platform, requiring trains to stop longer at stations to wait for them to board. And the new schedules don't have any recovery time built in.

Noland has been riding the trains and taking suggestions from on-board staff. Those include fixing slow orders that are more noticeable on the tighter schedule and upgrading radios to speed up communications with construction crews.

Ongoing construction projects can delay trains, as well.

The Hammond station's eight-car platforms have been shortened to two, as work continues to replace it with a new Gateway Station. Noland said one track will also have to be taken out of service for six weeks this summer. "So we’re going to have this little bottleneck, just for fun, to add to the mix of the things that we’re dealing with, in North Hammond for that period of time," Noland explained.

Work is also underway near downtown Chicago to add a fourth track to the Metra Electric line that the South Shore uses.

Still, Noland said he isn't ready to start lengthening schedules, yet. "We’ve got great infrastructure out there that we just put in place," Noland told board members. "We’ve got a number of trains that are making the schedule. We need to analyze the places where we’re not making it and understand why."

Noland said the first westbound train from South Bend each morning is the South Shore's fastest ever, and it's mostly been on-time. And for the trains that haven't been on-time, Noland said most are still running faster than the old schedule.

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Michael Gallenberger