By Richard Weizel
WESTPORT, Connecticut (Reuters) - Connecticut rail commuters endured crowded and rerouted rides in to work on Monday, as Metro-North worked to repair the busiest U.S. rail line after a two-train collision and derailment injured more than 70 people late last week.
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy said commuters should expect "serious disruptions," and encouraged riders to stay home if possible as repair crews worked to fix or replace more than 2,000 feet of track as well as overhead wires and other equipment.
But by late afternoon, the railroad said that repair work was being completed well ahead of schedule and that regular train service will resume in time for the Wednesday morning commute.
"We are confident that the reconstruction work, inspection and testing will be completed in time for a normal rush hour on Wednesday," said Metro-North President Howard Permut.
On Friday evening, a Metro-North passenger train derailed between Fairfield and Bridgeport, Connecticut, and was struck by another commuter train, halting full service. The site of the crash is about 55 miles northeast of New York City.
Many morning commuters stayed home on Monday, drove to trains further up the line which had not been disrupted or took shuttle buses.
Service between New York and Boston along the busy Northeast Corridor by Amtrak, the U.S. passenger rail network, was also suspended indefinitely due to the accident.
At the train station in Westport, Connecticut, travelers stood in long lines returning from New York as they waited for shuttle buses.
"I won't be doing this again, no way," said financial consultant Joseph Calabrese, who resides in a suburb of New Haven. "I can get more done at home without all this hassle."
Lindsey Shaughnessy, 26, of New Haven, said she had returned from a safari in Kenya on Monday to learn she could not catch a train to New Haven from Grand Central Terminal in New York.
"I've been in transit now for 40 hours and I just want to get home," said Shaughnessy, dragging her luggage as she prepared to board a shuttle bus. "You expect something like this in Africa, but it's kind of a shock to come back to the States and have to go through these kinds of delays."
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.
Kate Miller, a daily commuter from Bridgeport, said she got a ride into New York on Sunday night to avoid delays and took the train back early Monday afternoon to catch a shuttle bus in Westport.
"I haven't slept in more than 24 hours. I'm exhausted and will take the governor's advice the rest of the week and work from home," Miller said. "It just isn't worth it spending all these hours commuting."
(Additional reporting by Edith Honan; editing by Daniel Trotta, Dan Whitcomb, G Crosse)