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LIRR scoot trains planned for the North Fork on hold

Mattituck train station

Plans for so-called scoot trains, which were once envisioned as a way of increasing Long Island Rail Road service to the North Fork, have been put on hold after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority learned the trains are incompatible with the LIRR’s network.

The MTA had authorized spending more than $37 million to purchase the smaller “diesel multiple units,” which are lighter, have smaller engines and are more cost-effective to operate than existing LIRR trains.

Now, the proposal seems unlikely.

MTA spokesman Sal Arena said the LIRR had met with railcar developers and investigated potentially purchasing DMUs, but didn’t find the right fit.

“Unfortunately, none of the DMUs under development were compatible with LIRR’s network,” Mr. Arena said. 

In 2012, LIRR officials said they were looking to buy “off the shelf” scoot models rather than have new ones built. The $37.2 million would have allowed them to purchase five scoot trains, which come in sets of two cars each.

In addition to expanding service east of Ronkonkoma, scoots were also planned for the Oyster Bay line and in Brooklyn.

• Related: Will LIRR ever restore year-round weekend service on North Fork?

East End officials were hoping to coordinate the scoots with a system of feeder buses to take people from the trains to various locations not served by rail.

“That is the heart of the system,” said Riverhead resident Vince Taldone, who is a member of Five Town Rural Transit, which seeks to improve public transportation on the East End. “We need to have more frequent rail system — which isn’t saying much, considering that on winter weekends, we don’t even have any rail service.”

The self-propelled scoots would be less costly for the MTA than running diesel engines that pull numerous passenger cars, Mr. Taldone said.

“The problem with the scoot train is that the design did not come back the way we though it was going to,” said Mitch Pally, Suffolk County’s representative on the MTA’s board of trustees. “They were too heavy; they didn’t fit the tracks. There were a variety of reasons it didn’t work, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work with another design. It just means that this design didn’t work.”

Officials said designing scoot trains specifically for the LIRR, rather than buying them from a company that already makes them, wasn’t an option.

“The design and manufacture of a very small number of cars is not feasible given the significant cost of development and design and the difficulties posed by the operation and maintenance of a limited fleet,” Mr. Arena said.

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