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Officials warn of commuter chaos from Connecticut derailment

Passengers wait to be picked-up after two commuter trains collided in Bridgeport, Connecticut causing one to derail injuring numerous passen
Passengers wait to be picked-up after two commuter trains collided in Bridgeport, Connecticut causing one to derail injuring numerous passen

By Richard Weizel

BRIDGEPORT, Connecticut (Reuters) - Thousands of Connecticut commuters should brace for travel chaos on Monday as Metro-North workers repair damage on the United States' busiest rail line caused by the collision of two trains, officials warned on Sunday.

Lengthy detours and hours of traffic backups were likely as many train commuters take to the road, officials said. The Friday derailment of a Metro-North passenger train that struck a commuter train between Fairfield and Bridgeport, Connecticut, injured more than 70 people and halted full service on the line indefinitely.

The Monday commute will be "extremely challenging and I am activating the state's Emergency Management System. There will be serious disruptions all week, and I would encourage anyone who can, to stay home, if possible," Governor Dannel Malloy told a news conference.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation was preparing a plan to assist commuters. The agency, Malloy and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, urged people to make alternate plans.

"I'm really in the same boat as everyone else, as I plan to head down to Washington to make it clear to the White House that I am deeply concerned about our nation's railway infrastructure," Blumenthal said.

"This accident shows that safety cannot be compromised, and is going to cost tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue. We need to find the problems before they lead to accidents like this one."

Malloy said 30,000 daily commuters will be seriously affected on Monday and likely the entire week.

The site of the crash is about 50 miles northeast of New York. Metro-North train service between New Haven and South Norwalk is indefinitely suspended.

Service by Amtrak, the U.S. passenger rail service, also has been suspended indefinitely. Officials reiterated on Sunday that they did not know when service would be restored.

The New York-New Haven line is the busiest rail line in the country, serving 125,000 commuters a day, said Judd Everhart, a spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

Regular service will run from the Stamford station and South Norwalk station to Grand Central Terminal in New York. Limited service will run from Westport.

Morning commuter train service would run every 20 minutes from New Haven to Bridgeport on the New Haven commuter line, the state Department of Transportation said.

Two buses will run from Bridgeport to Stamford Station bypassing the site of the accident.

Earl Weener, a board member for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), told the news conference the agency was finishing its probe of the crash site and would turn it over to Metro-North on Sunday.

All the train cars have been removed, recording devices recovered and crews were being interviewed, he said.

Weener said hundreds of pounds of track had been sent to the NTSB laboratory in Washington. The track includes a section of fractured rail that may have caused the accident or been damaged by it.

"But it will take a significant amount of time to repair the tracks," he said.

State transportation officials said that more than 2,000 feet of track must be repaired and replaced.

Of the more than 70 passengers and crew members injured, eight remained hospitalized on Sunday. Three were in critical condition, officials said.

(This story has been refiled to remove repeated material)

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Theodore d'Afflisio and Stacey Joyce)

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