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Free H Train Service Operating In Hard-Hit Rockaways

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- For the first time since Superstorm Sandy, subway service is back up and running in the Rockaways.

Tracks for the A train that runs from Howard Beach to the Rockaways were almost completely destroyed in the storm.

1010 WINS' Glenn Schuck reports


Tracks were snapped in some places, ripped from the ground and covered by debris in others, making transit impossible and leaving the hard-hit Rockaways isolated and cut off.

WCBS 880's Sean Adams On The Story


But now in an effort to put Sandy in the past and get people moving again, the MTA is resurrecting the long-shuttered H subway line as work continues on the damaged tracks.

MTA crews loaded 20 subway cars onto flatbed trucks and drove them to the Rockaways in a four night operation and loaded them onto the old H tracks.

The free H train service started at 4 a.m. Tuesday and will run daily from 4 a.m. to 1 a.m. every 15 minutes between the Far Rockaway-Mott Avenue station and the Beach 90-Holland station.

From there, commuters can transfer to a free shuttle bus which loops around JFK and connects them to the A train at the Howard Beach station.

Tuesday morning, many residents were happy to see the H train pulling into the station.

"It's a historic thing," one man said.

"It's beautiful," said another resident. "I'm very, very grateful."

From November 26, 1967 through September 10, 1972, the Rockaways Shuttle to/from Euclid Avenue and Far Rockaway or Rockaway Park was the "HH Train." The Shuttle was phased out in 1972 in deference to through-routing of A and E Trains.  Then the Shuttle returned as the CC Train in 1976.

From the late 70s to 1985 it was again named the HH, and renamed the H Train on May 5, 1985 when double letters were eliminated.  In 1994, the H was renamed the S Shuttle and continued as such between Broad Channel and Rockaway Park (the A Train served Far Rockaway, alternating terminals with Lefferts Blvd.).

Even after the H designation disappeared from public timetables and maps in 1994, it was still used internally for NYC Transit employees for route and car assignments right up to Sandy.

The new H is running over a seldom-used piece of track, called "Hammels Wye," that connects the Rockaway Park and Far Rockaway branches.  Prior to now, it was used only for equipment moves and very rare "round-robin service" during construction that took a single train set from Broad Channel to Rockaway Park to Far Rockaway and back to Broad Channel.

There is no timetable for restoring A train service, but officials say it is expected to take several months.

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