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MTA Announces Best LIRR On-Time Performance in Modern History

Long Island Rail Road
Updated January 21, 2022 1:15 p.m.

Infrastructure and Technology Upgrades Improve Overall Rider Experience  

LIRR Forward Plan Addresses Root Causes of Delays 

Record Pace of Capital Work Reduces Vehicular Bridge Strikes and Reduces Risk of Delays Resulting from Grade Crossing Incidents 


MTA Long Island Rail Road President Phil Eng today announced that the LIRR’s 2021 total annual on-time performance (OTP) was the best since modern record-keeping began in the 1970s. The annual total, 96.3% of trains operating on-time over the course of the year, breaks the previous record of 95.9% set in 2020 and represents a 5.5 percentage point improvement over 2018’s annual on-time rate of 90.4%.  

The historic improvements are the result of efforts to systematically identify and address the root causes of all train delays, and the MTA’s accelerated capital work on the railroad with crews pursuing an unprecedented 100 capital projects across the system to modernize and transform the railroad’s infrastructure. 

“The LIRR is delivering for our customers, the consistent and reliable service they expect and deserve.   We are proactively tackling longstanding issues through aggressive measures to eliminate, mitigate and prevent problems before they can become major disruptions,” LIRR President Eng said. “The LIRR Forward plan laid out the vision, but it was the LIRR workforce – working tirelessly and often thanklessly day in and day out – that deserves the credit for making the vision a reality.” 

The LIRR Forward Plan was initiated in April 2018 to address all train delays caused by matters within the railroad’s control, from combating switch and signal failures and broken rails to upgrading rail car reliability. 

Notable Improvements 

  • MTA Construction & Development’s LIRR Expansion Project has, over the past two years, eliminated eight railroad crossings along the railroad’s busiest corridor and raised the heights of seven bridges between Floral Park and Hicksville, improving safety, eliminating risk, and reducing the number of incidents of over-height trucks striking bridges and the resulting train delays.  
  • The double-tracking of the Ronkonkoma Branch has reduced congestion-related delays. 
  • An aggressive schedule of switch and signal upgrades paired with more robust rail testing using the Sperry Rail testing car, enabled the railroad to respond to problem areas before they caused a major disruption.  
  • High visibility safety delineators were installed at all 296 grade crossings, enabling motorists unfamiliar with roads near LIRR right of ways to be able to avoid incorrect suggestions from the car’s GPS which, in the past, has caused them to end up on the tracks. 
  • The LIRR responded to the many natural hazards that contributed in the past to train delays by eliminating 180 miles of overgrown vegetation and installing more weather resistant utility poles along LIRR right of ways.  
  • An aggressive leaf fighting strategy has reduced “slip-sliding” where emergency braking creates flat spots on train wheels, forcing the LIRR to take much-needed equipment out of service for repairs. 
  • The amount of low adhesion delays in Oct. 2021 through Nov. 2021 compared to the same time in 2018, was down by almost 50% dropping from more than 600 to 309. The reduced wheel damage also allowed crews to remove 60 fewer cars from service compared to 2019.