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Train system outage affected five states

[This post will be updated]

An information technology system failure at Norfolk Southern caused Virginia Railway Express trains on the Manassas Line to come to a halt Friday morning, Norfolk Southern officials said.

The malfunction caused both freight and passenger trains in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama to stop for almost two hours, starting around 6:20 a.m., Norfolk Southern spokeswoman Susan Terpay said. The information technology system is used to dispatch trains, and without it, trains are basically operating blindly.

VRE officials said while the first two VRE trains on the Manassas Line were able to operate this morning, the system failure stopped Train 326. VRE officials said NS gave them permission to move at a reduced speed to Backlick Road, where buses took riders to the Springfield Metro station. Otherwise, passengers would have been stranded on the tracks, they said.

"Clearly it causes operational issues when an entire network goes dark," VRE Spokesman Mark Roeber said, adding that about 8,400 to 8,900 people ride the Manassas Line daily.

Roeber said NS experienced a similar problem 10 days ago, however it didn't happen during VRE's operating hours. It also happened in November 2009 and impacted two evening VRE trains, he said.

Terpay said she was unaware of the issue 10 days ago, but was looking into it. Terpay said Norfolk Southern does not anticipate and further problems or delays Friday.

Norfolk Southern operates about 21,000 route miles of track in 22 states and the District of Columbia, according to its Web site.

-- Jennifer Buske

By Michael Bolden  | October 22, 2010; 9:20 AM ET
Categories:  Commuter Rail, Virginia Railway Express  
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