Christie Halts NJ Transit Payments To Amtrak As Derailment Delays Drag On

Apr 09, 2017, 02:05
Christie Halts NJ Transit Payments To Amtrak As Derailment Delays Drag On

A return to regular rail service in and out of New York City's Penn Station is expected on Friday, according to Amtrak and NJ Transit.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the target of angry commuter frustration, threatened to sue Amtrak over the derailment and said he was withholding rent payments to Amtrak for the use of Penn Station until the railroad can guarantee that the Northeast Corridor is back in good shape.

"The increasing frequency of failures leaves the clear impression that Amtrak is not aggressively maintaining its tracks, switches and related equipment at Penn Station and that repairs have not happened as swiftly as needed", MTA Acting Chairman Fernando Ferrer and Interim Executive Director Veronique Hakim wrote in a letter to Amtrak CEO Charles W. Moorman.

NJ Transit says it has given tens of millions of dollars to Amtrak for maintenance work under its contract.

In a pair of letters Wednesday, Christie said that the recent derailments at New York Penn Station indicated that Amtrak, which is responsible for the Northeast Corridor's tracks and equipment, "does not take its obligations seriously".

Moorman assured that full service would be restored Friday morning.

Amtrak says one derailment was caused by a misaligned rail, the second by weak timbers underneath the track.

He said a routine inspection in the days before the derailment noted the condition of the ties but didn't recommend replacing them right away.

Moorman says an Amtrak train derailed at Penn Station in March because the track was misaligned.

"We will share the full results of these inspections with both NJ Transit and LIRR so that they understand what we've found", he said.

For the last four days, commuters have been stranded or turned away at Penn Station because of extensive delays affecting all the trains traveling through the transit hub. FRA, which oversees heavy rail systems, such as Amtrak, dispatched a team of inspectors to Penn Station, shortly after Monday's derailment. He added: "Withholding funding is not going to solve any problems".

Moorman said insufficient funding for Amtrak, which is largely subsidized by the federal government, has made it more challenging to maintain Penn Station.

With only 13 tracks available to transport the 600,000 riders who use Penn Station daily, the LIRR, NJT and Amtrak have been forced to cut back service. He says they should call for congressional hearings to "hold Amtrak accountable".

By that time, the Long Island Rail Road had already canceled 10 rush-hour trains into Manhattan and terminated four others at stations in Queens.

On Friday, New Jersey U.S. Sens. "Our commitment is to work with NJ Transit, LIRR, all of our partners to ensure that Penn Station's infrastructure is in top condition and we can operate our trains safely".