NJ Transit returns to full service Friday AM after week of delays, finger-pointing
NEWARK — NJ Transit trains will operate on a full, normal schedule Friday morning after Amtrak announced repairs at New York Penn Station would be completed by 4 a.m.
A derailment on Monday at the station resulted in NJ Transit operating a holiday schedule since Tuesday, causing overcrowding and delays for commuters.
It was the second derailment in as many weeks.
Gov. Chris Christie is asking for congressional hearings into Amtrak, which he and NJ Transit officials spent the week excoriating over the commuter breakdown. Christie himself was blamed by Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner Phil Murphy for canceling a Hudson River tunnel project years ago
Christie this week directed NJ Transit to withhold payments to Amtrak pending a thorough and independent examination of the tracks, signals, switches and other equipment maintained by Amtrak on the Northeast Corridor.
In a letter to U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker and U.S. Reps. Frank LoBiondo, Albio Sires and and Rodney Frelinghuysen, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee Chairman, Christie said "we must hold Amtrak fully accountable for these failures to keep commuters safe and maintain an efficient mass transportation system for the North East corridor."
“Amtrak’s admission of fault and failure today proves a valuable lesson. The rush to judgment by candidates, politicians and the media to mislead the public with prejudicial conclusions to drive their partisan or personal agendas is irresponsible,” Christie said.
“Our Congressional delegation should immediately execute their powers and oversight to ensure taxpayer and commuter dollars are prioritized for public safety and functional infrastructure.”
Amtrak is a private company that was created by Congress and is funded in part by government subsidies.
NJ Transit Executive Director Steven H. Santoro also pointed the blame at Amtrak, which maintains the rails at Penn Station.
“We now know that deficiencies in Amtrak’s infrastructure at Penn Station New York caused an extremely difficult and challenging week for our customers,” he said Friday afternoon. “We appreciate and value all of our customers and thank them for their patience. I want to assure our riders that NJ Transit is doing everything possible to ensure Amtrak sets the bar higher on maintaining their infrastructure to prevent these types of incidents."
Earlier on Friday, Amtrak CEO Wick Moorland said Christie “has a right to be upset” at Amtrak for the derailments and this week’s delays, but “withdrawing funding is not going to solve any of the problems.”
Moorland said that Monday’s derailment was caused by a the “gauge of the rails widening because there were weakened timbers underneath."
"We inspect on a regular basis and had notations that these timbers needed to be replaced," he said. "We clearly did not have the understanding that there was an imminent failure but we did have that location identified with others and we knew that at some point this year in our maintenance program we would be getting to it. Clearly we got it wrong.”
Moorland said Amtrak will put together a team to look at all of New York Penn Station’s “maintenance issues and deficiencies” and will personally lead a comprehensive review of all of Amtrak’s maintenance practices.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.
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